Railroad Stories and Songs Chug Into Library
BY AMANDA SNYDER
Special to The Pilot
Who was Old Lost John, or Railroad Bill? What is the story behind the Wreck of the Old '97?
"Hobo Bill" and Kristin Morris will delight the audience with songs and tales of train wrecks, rides and hobos Sunday, Jan. 13, from 3 to 4 p.m. at the Southern Pines Library.
This presentation, called "Steel Rails Hummin'," will be both entertaining and educational, taking you on a ride through the history of the railroad in America.
The stories are about steam-powered trains from the late 1890s to the 1950s, when steam was replaced with diesel, and was also the period of train wrecks, robbers and hobos. The music includes a variety of period instruments such as banjo, harmonica, guitar and washboard.
Bill Morris, who claims he "began his hobo days at 13 when he hopped a freight train and rode to Knoxville," learned old-time country music from family gatherings in western North Carolina and Virginia. He has been performing professionally since the age of 3, when he says his mother and aunt "routinely took him to the old Eckerd's drug store in Asheville to sing for the soldiers and sailors during World War II."
"One of my earliest memories is the sound of the pulp-wood train as it blew for the crossing not far from my home," Hobo Bill recalls. "By the time I was 8, I was already singing train songs and trying to emulate the sound of the whistle on my harmonica."
His grandmother started calling him "Railroad Bill" because he spent most of his time at the tracks.
Kristin Morris, now a high school English teacher, took piano lessons as a child and soon was writing songs. The guitar became her love at age 13, and she enjoyed playing a variety of musical genres.
From Texas to New Orleans to Appalachia, Morris was influenced by parlor songs, ragtime, progressive country, blues and "homespun" music. She was captivated by the Appalachian harmonies so much, she says, "I couldn't learn the old-time tunes fast enough."
Performing together for more than 10 years, the Morrises are members of the North Carolina Storytelling Guild, and have performed for Elderhostel programs, campgrounds, retirement homes, schools and folk festivals across North Carolina.
This program continues the library's year-long series of events called "Home Grown in Southern Pines" which focuses on local foods, sustainability, self-sufficiency, community revitalization, history, and traditions.
"The train station lies physically at the heart of Southern Pines, and it is part of what makes our community unique, "says Library Director Lynn Thompson.
Built in 1898 and restored in 2004, the train station has been both a historic landmark and symbol of the town.
This program is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served, courtesy of Friends of Southern Pines Library.
For more information about this program or programs for all ages, call (910) 692-8235 or visit the library website, www.sppl.net.
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