In 1949 France sent 49 boxcars to the United States as a symbol of gratitude.
The World War I era boxcars were known as the “Merci Train.” There was one given to each of the American states, with the 49th being shared between Washington D.C. and the territory of Hawaii.
The boxcars were filled with tens of thousands of gifts from France.
The boxcar is located on Robison Street at The McCarty Center in Norman.
“It’s a beautiful story of friendship between our country and France,” said Walter Hobbs, volunteer coordinator for the restoration.
Over the years workers noticed the wear and tear on the iconic symbol.
“We just kinda got to a point where we thought, ‘You know we need to do some refurbishment of it,’” said Sharla Bardin, with the McCarty Center.
The administrators of the McCarty Center called Habitat for Humanity in search of someone that could take on such a major task.
“That’s what led us to the second ward and the second ward volunteers have just been amazing. They’ve been out here in the summer, it’s been hot, but they’ve been dedicated to it,” said Bardin.
The volunteers are being led by Hobbs, who was honored to be involved with the challenging restoration .
“We originally planned for four Saturdays, we have now put in five Saturdays and one Tuesday,” said Hobbs. “We’ve probably got about 15 to 20 hours in here with on the average of about four to five people each time.”
The restoration of the boxcar is almost complete and is already getting positive reactions from the staff.
“To see this now, and to just see it shown so much care by our community is just a really unique gift,” said Bardin.
Once the project is complete the center is planning a ceremony. The date has not been set.
For information about the boxcar and the ceremony, visit here.