Everything's Bigger in Texas
By Cate Boyle and Victoria Principato
There was no greater feeling than arriving at Marshall, Texas on the Amtrak Texas Eagle! The platform was packed with people waiting to welcome Victoria and I to their wonderful little town. Our hosts, Judge and Mrs. Anderson, were the first to greet us and lead us through the crowd of local officials and supporters of the proposed I-20 Corridor rail line.
We were led to an All-American Boogie Woogie Breakfast in the Historic 1912 Marshall Depot with their Board of Directors, City officials, Amtrak representatives and staff from the National Association of Railroad Passengers. After a presentation on Marshall Texas being the birthplace of Boogie Woogie musical genre, we had a tour of the Depot as well as the Texas and Pacific Museum.
Before heading off to our next event, we were lucky enough to receive a tour of the Ginocchio Hotel which is located directly next to the Marshall Depot. The hotel is currently undergoing major renovations, but it will be maintaining its Circa 1898 Railroad hotel style and features. The Ginocchio Hotel owner is planning for construction to be completed in the Fall of 2017 and the whole town is very excited for the Grand Opening.
Next stop was the Pep Rally for Rail which was being hosted by East Texas Baptist University located nearby the Marshall Depot. The East Texas Council of Governments sent us one of their GoBuses to help transport us around town for the day. GoBus is a public transportation system that serves fourteen counties in the region, and they are partnering with GoVet, a project to connect Amtrak, GoBus, Longview Transit and EasTexConnect to bring East Texas veterans to the local Veterans Affairs Medical Center. We were dropped off at the ETBU campus by the wonderful people of GoBus and followed the music to the Pep Rally for Rail!
Here, four institutions from Marshall including, Wiley College, ETBU, Texas State Technical College and Panola College, gathered in the ETBU Student Center to not only open the first day of classes but also in support of the I-20 Corridor rail line. We were blessed with an incredible entrance from the ETBU Cheer and Drum Team, along with the most incredible National Anthem performance we had ever heard from the A Cappella Choir of Wiley College. Aside from being blown away from all the students, we heard from many of the Presidents and Vice Presidents of the local colleges about how influential the I-20 Corridor rail line for their institutions, students, and communities. The Mayor of Marshall Larry Hurta and Longview Councilwoman Kasha Williams also spoke about how important it is to work together as a community to promote change and ultimately the execution of the I-20 Corridor.
After our jam-packed morning, we were absolutely starved, and ready for a quick bite to eat. We made our way to downtown Marshall for some chips and sandwiches. We pulled up to the restaurant, and were about to head inside when our wonderful guide, Ms. Anderson, opened the door to a neighboring antique shop, and said, “Come in here!” Cate and I, hungry and confused, followed behind her. We were pleasantly surprised to realize that the shop and café were one in the same! Central Perks coffee house and café is connected to The Weisman Antique Shop, so we had a great time shopping around while waiting for our food!
However, as soon as our food came to the table, the clock struck 1:15. On a regular Monday, this wouldn’t have meant much. But on this particular Monday, August 21st, 2017, we saw the time and rushed outside. Marshall, Texas, was in the path for a prime viewing of the solar eclipse! NASA certified glasses in hand, (thanks to our breakfast with an astronaut!) we got to see incredible views of the solar eclipse. We had a great time, sharing our glasses with passers-by and seeing this once in a lifetime event.
Post eclipse, we packed up the car, and made our way to Shreveport, Louisiana, one of the many towns that would benefit from the I-20 Corridor train line. We had the privilege of meeting Mayor Ollie Tyler at the City Council meeting, and were even able to present to the City Council’s Administrative Conference about the I-20 Corridor initiative! Our next stop was Bossier City, Louisiana, to meet with Mayor Lo Walker. On our drive over, we were greeted with some southern hospitality. Check it out!
Throughout our meeting, we were able to speak with Mayor Walker about the kinds of benefits a train line would bring to his community, and the kinds of initiatives that Mayor Walker is hoping to bring to his community. It was such a great experience to speak with Mayor Walker, and to learn about how the rail lines connect with his ideas for the Bossier County community. Thanks again for taking the time to speak with us, Mayor Walker!
Last up for the day, we took a trip to Grambling University to visit another potential site of the I-20 Corridor stop and the Eddie Robinson Museum. This museum honors the late football coach, who was known for his holistic dedication to his players. The museum, which is the most visited museum in the state of Louisiana, includes a timeline of “Coach Rob’s” life, and highlights the legacy he has left at Grambling State. While it is impressive that he has sent over 200 players to the NFL, remarkably, throughout his whole life, Coach Robinson had one job and one wife. He was an extremely humble and patriotic man, who would be honored to see the museum that was created in his name in 2009.
It was such an honor to be in the presence of people who care so much about Coach Robinson and the Grambling community. We had the pleasure and privilege of having dinner with Grambling’s Mayor Jones, Councilwoman Denise Dupree, and Grambling State University President Rick Gallot. We were so honored and, again, really enjoyed experiencing such incredible southern hospitality. It was wonderful to get a visual of where the rail line would actually run, and the benefits that each community would experience from regular passenger rail service. It was so inspiring to see how many people are passionate about this project, spearheaded by Ms. Anderson. Keep up the incredible efforts, and we can’t wait to come back to Marshall, Texas, and the I-20 Corridor, hopefully, next time by train!