Railroad Days Surprise
June 27th, 2007 started out as any other day. I was busy at the Depot when a man walked in and said “I have your sign”. “Pardon me”, I said. “I have your sign”, he repeated. He then introduced himself as Quentin Kuntz, and it all came flooding back.Well over a year ago, I received a letter from Mr. Kuntz, informing me that he had a sign from the Depot, which he “liberated” in June of 1973, and that he wanted to return. “Great” I said. “Our first annual St. Johns Depot Railroad Days will be in September, and I would love to surprise all of our volunteers and board members with the return of a beloved artifact of the Depot”. So, I waited for him, but he never showed up. I tried to reach him for several months after, but to no avail. I gave up and decided that he had second thoughts about returning the sign.
When he returned it this year, the surprise was mine!After Mr. Kuntz liberated the sign in 1973 during a college prank, it was held hostage in the attic of Kuntz’s home (506 S. Oakland) until 1992, when fire broke out in the twenty-room mansion. The sign was untouched by the flames. The sign was then moved to Indianapolis, then to Cleveland, Ohio where it has remained until June 27th of this year. Kuntz decided to return the sign to the Depot when he learned about the opening of the “Depot center for the Arts”.
It seems that Mr. Kuntz had a propensity for mischief. Quentin, along with several college friends, was arrested in 1973 for driving a 1958 Rambler on the tracks from Pewamo to St. Johns. They pled guilty to trespassing and paid a $50.00 fine as ordered by Judge Frederick Lewis. I’m sure there are some folks in town who still remember that stunt!
Mr. Kuntz said he is pleased to return the sign to its rightful place. He stated he was able to deliver the sign since the “statute of limitations” has long since expired! What he didn’t know was that if he had brought it back last year, I planned on having him locked up in the Sesquicentennial Bastille. Saturday August 11th at 12 noon, the sign will be unveiled in the depot lobby. Mr. Kuntz has taken very good care of his hostage, and we are happy to have it home again.
This year the St. Johns Depot Railroad Days will be held on Saturday and Sunday August 11th and 12th. We will have model railroads of all gauges set up ready to play with. You can play with our trains or bring your own engine to run on our track. Tours through our vintage railcars will also be part of the $2.00 entrance fee which is good for both days. All money raised will go toward the restoration of the three railcars.
We have invited several artists to sell their wares, or do demonstrations, on the lawn in front of the Depot. Inside you will find a gentleman selling antique pocket watches like those used by the men of the rails, as well as storytellers wandering about. We invite you to share your stories and memories of the railroad with us as well.
St. Johns Depot Railroad Days is part of a larger event called “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”. On Saturday only, Classic cars will line Clinton Avenue, Model remote control airplanes will be on the west lawn of the Depot, and Vintage Military Vehicles will be on the street in front of the Depot. A shuttle bus will transport you to and from the Depot to the Mint Festival activities.
The Clinton Northern Railway is located at 107 E. Railroad Street, St. Johns. 4th block North of the Courthouse. For more information call 989 66 TRAIN
M. Elaine Twichell is the Project Manager of the Clinton Northern Railway.