Friday morning is when a few retirees gather at our local museum in Mount Pleasant, Iowa to sort through old documents and various donations. This Friday was going to be different. I walked in and was immediately pointed to a letter that obviously had been chewed on by something. The first thing I noticed was "Lionel" and then made a remark about it had to be old because it was prior to 15 East 26th Street. That sort of comment will draw a few stares from the uninformed.
The letter was addressed to George Van Allen in Mount Pleasant. I know he was born sometime during 1912, so he had to be 12 or 13 when he received the letter. Evidently he needed some Lionel parts and the bottom of the letter has been cut off which would indicate that George ordered the same.
Most people outside of Mount Pleasant have probably never heard of George, but many have heard of George's younger brother. George had three brothers and the next one born after him was Dr. James Van Allen, America's premier space scientist. George and James both had curious minds and did things together. My guess is that James also played with George's Lionel.
The Van Allen boyhood home is part of the museum complex owned by the Henry County Heritage Trust. The four Van Allen brothers shared the same bedroom. Where could George have set up a standard gauge train? There really wasn't that much room. That is going to bug me when I work in the house and the answer will probably never be known. Knowing the interest that James had in electricity, part of that interest may have come from Lionel.