Find Us Next To Former Railroad Station At Main
Street & Union Square
Gertrude Warner Boxcar
By Linda Lemmon, Putnam Town Crier Editor
PUTNAM --- Showing the same tenacity as the Boxcar Children, Putnam
July 3, dedicated the Gertrude Chandler Warner Boxcar Museum near
The idea for using a boxcar to honor Putnam#39;s famous first grade
teacher and author of the Boxcar Children book series sprang up
years ago. But hard work and donations from every corner, in addition
to grants and more hard work, applied over the last year and one
half, bore fruit when the museum officially opened..
Inside is the desk that had belonged to Edgar Warner, Gertrude#39;s
father. It was donated by Ruth Robinson Warner, a family member
from Louisville, Ky. She rented a van to bring it personally. The
ink stains and the secret quotes written on the desk stay. Gertrude
wrote her first story, "Gollywog at the Zoo," at age 9,
on that desk.
More family and student memorabilia also packs the boxcar. Also
inside is a representation of the Boxcar Children, in silhouette.
The train and its surroundings are true to the books that Warner
Fred Hedenberg, president of the Aspinock Historical Society, project
manager and lightning rod for the years-long project, said the society
is building up its manuscript display and has on the drawing boards
a creative writing program built around Warner. He added there may
be a contest and they would try to get the winning book published.
Eleven volunteers are already trained and the museum will be open
from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends May through mid-October. The
September and October open dates will allow for school trips and
Hedenberg said several schools have already lined up to bring students
to the museum.
The project started with a $25,000 grant from the town of Putnam
and the Connecticut Humanities Council kicked in $4,500. Citizens
National Bank donated $2,500 and $5,000 came from the state. But
the donations wowed even the committee. The Connecticut Trolley
Museum donated the boxcar and the crane to load it onto two flatbed
trucks to bring it to Putnam. Donations or for-cost breaks were
given by LaBossiere Builders, Chace Building Supplies, River View
Landscaping, Deary Unfinished Furniture, Front Street Rental, Crabtree
Electric & Construction, Michael and Robert Swenson (who painted
it), Hull Forest Products, John Knierim, Jeff Kreyssig, the Putnam
Rotary Club, Central Construction Industries, Sign Designs by Chace,
the Providence and Worcester Railroad, and many more.
State Representative Shawn Johnston, D-District 51, at the dedication
ceremonies said a little government money, lots of donations and
the Gertrude Warner Museum makes Putnam more vibrant. "It fits
with us," he said. State Senator Donald E. Williams Jr. said
the project is an important historical preservation and honors Putnam.
Ruth Flagg, a former first grade student of Miss Warner#39;s, recalled
that she was one of more than 1,000 students blessed by having Gertrude
Warner as a teacher. Flagg said Warner loved adventure and she could
just imagine Warner leaning on the window sill at her home near
the railroad tracks, watching the trains go by as a child. No wonder
she picked a boxcar as a setting for her children#39;s stories years
later. "She believed that imagination is beginning of everything
and allows us to expand ourselves," Flagg said.
Speaking to her former teacher, Flagg said "Your dream became
our dream. We will pass it on to another generation."
Color photographs provided by Linda Lemmon.
Born In Putnam
Gertrude Chandler Warner was born in Putnam, Connecticut, on April
16, 1890, to Edgar and Jane Warner. Her family included a sister,
Frances, and a brother, John. From the age of five, she dreamed
of becoming an author. She wrote stories for her Grandfather Carpenter,
and each Christmas she gave him one of these stories as a gift.
Today, Ms. Warner is best remembered as the author of The Boxcar
As a child, Gertrude enjoyed many of the things that girls enjoy
today. She loved furnishing a dollhouse with handmade furniture
and she liked to read. Her favorite book was Alice in Wonderland.
Often on Sundays after church, Gertrude enjoyed trips to visit her
grandparents#39; farm. Along the way, she and Frances would stop to
pick the wildflowers they both loved. Gertrude#39;s favorite flower
was the violet.
Her family was a very musical one. They were able to have a family
orchestra, and Gertrude enjoyed playing the cello. Her father had
brought her one from New York¡ªa cello, a bow, a case and an
instruction book. All together, he paid $14.00. Later, as an adult,
she began playing the pipe organ and sometimes substituted for the
Due to ill health, Ms. Warner never finished high school. She left
in the middle of her second year and studied with a tutor. Then,
in 1918, when teachers were called to serve in World War I, the
school board asked her to teach first grade. She had forty children
in the morning and forty more in the afternoon. Ms. Warner wrote,
"I was asked or begged to take this job because I taught Sunday
School. But believe me, day school is nothing like Sunday School,
and I sure learned by doing¡ªI taught in that same room for
32 years, retiring at 60 to have more time to write." Eventually,
Ms. Warner attended Yale, where she took several teacher training
Once when she was sick and had to stay home from teaching, she
thought up the story about the Boxcar Children. It was inspired
by her childhood dreams. As a child, she had spent hours watching
the trains go by near her family#39;s home. Sometimes she could look
through the window of a caboose and see a small stove, a little
table, cracked cups with no saucers, and a tin coffee pot boiling
away on the stove. The sight had fascinated her and made her dream
about how much fun it would be to live and keep house in a boxcar
or caboose. She read the story to her classes and rewrote it many
times so the words were easy to understand. Some of her pupils spoke
other languages at home and were just learning English. The Boxcar
Children gave them a fun story that was easy to read.
Ms. Warner once wrote for her fans, "Perhaps you know that
the original Boxcar Children¡ raised a storm of protest from
librarians who thought the children were having too good a time
without any parental control! That is exactly why children like
it! Most of my own childhood exploits, such as living in a freight
car, received very little cooperation from my parents."
Though the story of The Boxcar Children went through some changes
after it was first written, the version that we are familiar with
today was originally published in 1942 by Scott Foresman. Today,
Albert Whitman & Company publishes this first classic story
as well as the next eighteen Alden children adventures that were
written by Ms. Warner.
Gertrude Chandler Warner died in 1979 at the age of 89 after a
full life as a teacher, author, and volunteer for the American Red
Cross and other charitable organizations. After her death, Albert
Whitman & Company continued to receive mail from children across
the country asking for more adventures about Henry, Jessie, Violet
and Benny Alden. In 1991, Albert Whitman added to The Boxcar Children
Mysteries so that today#39;s children can enjoy many more adventures
about this independent and caring group of children.
Reprinted from the website of the Albert Whitman & Company,
publisher of the Gertrude
Warner Boxcar Children Mysteries.
Links To Gertrude Warner Related Sites
Read All Aboard for the Boxcar Mysteries!