Editor's Note: Over the years, I must have heard this tale a hundred times. It was one of my mom’s favorite stories of riding the Monon. The last time she told the story was coming home from my Niece’s wedding in 1995. On the way home from Indianapolis and the “wedding from hell”, she coaxed me to drive up through Battle Ground to see what was left of the old church camp. It was also the one and only time my wife and daughter were subjected to "the Battle Ground story". The story involved a trip made by mom and her older sister Shirley to the Methodist Church camp at Battle Ground.
Trip to Battle Ground Gone Wrong
For a couple of years, my Aunt Shirley and Mom attended the summer church camp at Battle Ground and always had a great time. My Grandpa and Grandma Hepp would usually driving them down and pick them up at the end of camp. One year, 1946 or 1947, the decision was made to put them on the Monon. Grandpa was unable to get away from his business. The train passed right by the camp and they could get off at the Battle Ground depot and walk over to the camp, so the decision was made to put them on the train. Many campers rode the train down to Battle Ground.
Shirley was a junior, or senior in high school, so Grandpa and Grandma figured all would be okay and the girls travel alone on the train. Mom always spoke of how excited they were to be trusted to make the trip all alone. She loved riding the train. Mom and Grandma rode the train often to Chicago to visit her Grandparents. Grandpa bought the tickets and Grandma helped the girls pack their suitcases. Mom would add how excited they were, so much so that neither Shirley of Mom slept much the night before. In fact, Mom’s exact words were, “we didn’t sleep at all the night before.”
So the big day arrives. Grandma and the girls have breakfast and walk down to the depot. Tickets already in hand, they sat in the waiting room and watched the hands of the clock move slowly. Grandpa was unable to see his girls off because he was working at his tavern which was close to the depot, in front of the American Legion building.
Around 9:40 , or so, the southbound train arrives and Mom and Shirley get aboard and find seats. They wave goodbye to Grandma and the train pulls away heading south. This was the first trip by either of them south on the Monon. Mom remembered watching the countryside pass by as they gained speed. She recalls passing through Shelby and crossing the Kankakee River . The movement of the train soon put both girls to sleep. When the conductor woke them up, they looked out the window, expecting to see the Battle Ground depot. They were shocked when they were told they were at Crawfordsville, not Battle Ground. Someone had goofed and they had wound up with tickets to Crawfordsville, not Battle Ground. They were also one way tickets, so they were told they had to get off the train.
Here were two teenage girls alone in a strange town, what could go wrong next? Shirley, being older, did most of the talking. Mom always said she was not afraid, but one can only imagine their shock at being in a strange city. The situation was complicated when they discovered they did not have return trip tickets, or enough cash between them to buy tickets back to Battle Ground, or back home to Lowell . The watched as one northbound train made a stop at the depot and depart without them. The depot agent, in Crawfordsville, was very helpful and finally contacted the Lowell depot and explained the situation. Joe Cassady, the Lowell Agent at the time, sent word, across the street, to Grandpa, at the tavern, about his daughter’s plight. Then Cassady arranged for return trip tickets for the girls. Neither Mom nor Aunt Shirley wanted to bother with camp anymore. They both just wanted to go home. The next train would not arrive till early in the morning. Mom recalls it was something like 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. The agent then arranged for some food as the girls waited. Mom always said they really felt safe there at the depot. By the time the train arrived, a few more passengers had joined them in the waiting room. She recalled that the train was pretty much empty.
Neither slept much waiting for the train. Once safely aboard the northbound, they vowed to remain awake until they arrived back in Lowell . Grandma and Grandpa were there waiting at the depot when they stepped off the train at Lowell about 6:30 that morning. It was never determined how, or who made the mistake. It was the last time either Mom or Shirley spent the summer at Battle Ground. After a harrowing experience, both my Mom and Aunt Shirley would start laughing when they told the story. Growing up, my brother and sisters were treated to "the Battle Ground" story hundreds of times. I never had the opportunity to have such an adventure.
Mary “Hepp” Kepshire, as chronicled by Tom Kepshire
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