Enjoy Square Ambience

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 14, 2015

Take time to absorb Square’s ambience before train departs

On our front page is a timetable, a schedule for the departures of a passenger train from Batesville, Mississippi. If you’d told me a year ago that our front page would contain such information, I’d have said you were crazy. It’s been 20 years since we had passenger rail service from Batesville.

Nobody that I know could have predicted that the train would come back here.
I know, I know. It’s only temporary. The Polar Express will depart for the last time Sunday, December 27 at 5:30.

Until then, there remain many opportunities to hang out at the Square, observing the pajama-clad passengers as they arrive, enjoying their excitement over this experience in our little town. You can’t not smile.

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The 5:30 train is my favorite. Stores are still open on the Square. In the twilight the new old-fashioned street lights are bright. The food trucks are busy. The fried pie man has peach, apple, chocolate and sweet potato. The city’s new sound system sends Christmas songs into the air.

Then you hear that train horn. A generation has grown up in this town without hearing that sound on a regular basis. The Polar Express seems to have a distinctive passenger-train blast that is different from a freight train warning.

We can hear that horn all the way out at our house at Eureka, probably as it passes Courtland, which is not that far, as the crow flies.

Back when those tracks were new, the first train arrived in what would become known as “Batesville” on September 3, 1857. ( See Panola County History.)

Within weeks there were launched commercial endeavors where none had existed before, around the newly built depot which apparently stood beside the tracks in the middle of…nowhere.

The Panola Star (forerunner of The Panolian) by October of that year included advertisements of a new livery stable, a store containing “a large and well-selected stock of staple and fancy dry goods,” and a new warehouse and retail company.

Looks like we’ve had a renewal of our Square based on the arrival of a train in the 21st Century.
If you haven’t done it yet, visit the Square at train time. Buy food. You can eat it inside the old Sterling’s Store in the space the city has provided for our guests. Shop our local merchants. Visit with friends who are similarly absorbing the ambience. Wave to the passengers on the train.
When you see people lining up to have their picture made with the horse and sleigh display across from the Eureka, or the reindeer in the center of the pavilion, walk right up and volunteer to take the picture for the family so Dad can be in it.

We have friends coming to town right after Christmas. They will arrive on December 27. I have encouraged them to get here in time to see the last departure of the Polar Express. If there are any tickets available, we might just ride.