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By Whitney Wyatt
The Red River Sun
CHILDRESS – The Childress County Heritage Museum’s new exhibit “We Love the Railroad!” brought back memories to Childress residents and educated others on the importance of the railroad to Childress.
Rita Albritton Kitchens drove 120 miles from Stamford, Texas to see the exhibit. Born and raised in Childress, she worked for the railroad for 10 years. She was the second person to see the exhibit, which was unveiled on Saturday, March 20. The only one before her was Podger Efird, who worked for the railroad from 1956-2000.
“This is a part of history,” Kitchens said.
A part of history some don’t even know about. “The railroad was the beginning of Childress,” said Judy Johnson, Childress County Heritage Museum board member. “The railroad built this town.”
Childress was actually settled out in Henry, which is west of town. “There was a little community out there,” Johnson explained.
But the railroad didn’t want to put their yards in Henry because it was rolling country, Childress County Heritage Museum board member Ramona Garcia added. “It’s hard to lay tracks when the country is rolling,” she said.
There was an argument between Childress and Henry, as to who would get the railroad and become the county seat, explained Childress County Heritage Museum Executive Director Lee Ann Morren. “They compromised, and Henry became the county seat,” Morren said. “But they moved Childress to Henry, and Henry became the city of Childress.”
“Henry just dissipated into history,” Garcia added.
As the railroads merged and in the name of progress, the railroads left Childress in the late 1960s, Johnson said. When they closed the yards, 700 families left Childress. People who stayed with the railroad had to move. Some moved as far away as Iowa.
For former Childress High School Coach Charlie Johnston, the exhibit brought back memories from decades ago. In 1967 when he first came to Childress and before the railroad left, he remembers waving bye to the Bobcat cheerleaders.
“They were getting on the passenger train going to TCU for cheerleading camp,” Coach Charlie said.
The “We Love the Railroad!” exhibit is interactive. Kids – and even adults – can ring the locomotive bell. The mural that Jenna Manley, a 2016 CHS graduate, painted has multimedia. Telephone pole wires connect to another wall to give attendees the illusion of actually being by the railroad.
Located at 210 3rd St. NW, the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.