Illinois Central Engineer C. E. “Charlie” Dunn, known affectionately as “Whistle and Run Charlie Dunn,” was in town for a visit with friends in August of 1943. Dunn stopped by the Herald and Editor Edward B. Shearer mentioned the the long-time engineer in his “Shearings’ column.
Railroad Historian Bruce Gurner believed of all the railroad men who ran engines out of Water Valley in Casey Jones’s time, Dunn was the most colorful and probably better known locally.
“He was a proud man of boundless courage and self-confidence, Gurner said. “He was on excellent terms with the Lord, the railroad management and the government. In fact, Mr. Dunn often declared that the three most important institutions in the world were the Methodist Church, the United States Govern-ment and the Illinois Central Railroad. And he belonged to all three.”
Dunn was a very devout Christian and Gurner remembered his father, B. G. Gurner, saying Dunn would bow his head over the reverse lever of his engine and say a little prayer before leaving Water Valley headed south.
“When he got to Canton he’d do the same thing. He’d thank the Lord for a safe trip,” Gurner said.
Dunn would also say a pray before the family left their garage in their car. “The family agreed that was what he should do because he was a terrible driver.”
Around 1910 the Dunn family went to Annapolis to see son Lucius graduate from the Naval Academy. “As the ceremonies began, Mrs. Dunn noticed her husband was not with the rest of the family. Looking about the huge auditorium, she and her daughter, Ella Clyde, discovered he was on the stage with the Vice President, Secretary of the Navy and other honored guests.”
What happened, Gurner said, was that Dunn, in his ever-prevailing spirit of good fellowship, had gone up to shake hands with the dignitaries. An alert attendant brought another chair thinking this fine-looking gentleman must certainly be one of the dignitaries who was to sit on the stage.
“The beautiful part of the story is that the family was not in the least embarrassed,” noted Gurner. “Why should they be. After all, who was an Admiral when compared to the best passenger engineer on the Illinois Central Railroad?”
Dunn worked as an engineer from 1884 until 1931. One day he was coming into Water Valley on #23 and “just about the time he blew for the north crossing, Mrs. Dunn, who had been in the hospital for several days, turned to Ella Clyde and said, ‘There comes Papa.’ She died before he got to the depot.”
He never worked another day. After the funeral he went down to the superintendent’s office and asked for his pension, Gurner continued. “He turned in his switch key and rule book. That’s all they had ever given him.”
Dunn ended almost fifty years of railroading with a perfect record, according to Gurner. “He never had an accident, never was hurt. He ran a little Pacific passenger engine–the 1089–for years and years. People got to thinking he owned it. When he retired the shopmen took the eagle off the front of it and put it on his front porch.”
Fourteen years later, moments before his death, he comforted his daughter and the doctor, asked for his watch, the one he carried throughout his career, and said, “It’s time to go.”
“Charlie Dunn died as he had lived,” said Gurner, “by railroad time.”
Through The Years
From The Herald
• 5 years ago, Aug. 21, 2008 – Five people were shot in the parking lot of the Grand Palace nightclub early Sunday morning, Aug. 17.
The Tupelo Police Department Bomb Squad was called to Enid Lake after a suspicious metal file cabinet was found in the entrance to a restroom in the Persimmon Hills day use area. Nothing dangerous was found by the squad.
Television reporters swooped down on Yalo-busha County after reports that a women living in Enid wanted to sell a baby for $2000 and a used car.
• 10 years ago, Aug. 21, 2003 – Mr. and Mrs. Aubrey Trusty were celebrating their 78th wedding anniversary.
W. C. “Bill” Quinn was found dead at his home in what police called an apparent homicide.
Six “old” friends from the Class of ’71 took a trip to Orange Beach, Alabama, including Camille Fly Howell, Ruth Throop Wilbourn, Ginger Allen Doherty, Kim Horan Bruner, Daneise Chittom Burnette and Dorothy Caulfield Wiman.
• 20 years ago, Aug. 19, 1993 – John Woods, Jr. was pictured on the front page with the biggest watermelon of 1993 that weighed a whopping 48 pounds. With him was Dr. Barry Weeks, chamber president, and Lynn Morris, Watermelon Carnival Chairman.
Bruce Gurner was pictured stirring pork and beans for the Lions Club Chicken Barbeque at the Watermelon Carnival. He told the Herald that one must stir beans slowly clockwise (in the Northern Hemisphere) to “take the wind out of them.”
• 30 years ago, Aug. 25, 1983 – First Presbyterian Church was set to celebrate its 140th anniversary.
Among the 4-H District Horse Show winners were Stephanie Foster, Tanya Bowen and the horse judging team consisting of Mark Fielder, Tim Farmer, Laurie Craig and Christy Anthony.
• 40 years ago, Aug. 23, 1973 – There were 711 students enrolled in grades 1-6 and 674 in grades 7-12 for a total enrollment of 1385, according to Superintendent Clovis E. Steele.
Top anglers in the Junior Fishing Rodeo held by the Yalobusha County Sportsmen’s Club were Bobby Beaver, first place; Jane Massie, second; and G. G. Mayo, third.
• 50 years ago, Aug. 22, 1963 – Blood, Sweat and Poppin’ Leather was the tag line under a photo on the front page of Coach Bobby Clark watching his Blue Devil team running through their first day of practice on Aug. 15.
Holly Peeples of Coffeeville was selected as 4-H Lady of the Lake at a recent 4-H camp at Sardis Lake. Her court included Toni Hill, Patsy Chambers and Pat Harrison of Coffeeville.
• 60 years ago, Aug 27, 1953 – A fire of undetermined origin partially destroyed a block of three buildings on Martin Street. The alarm was turned in at 10 p.m. The buildings were occupied by Holloway Lumber Company, Daniels Grocery Store and the T. C. Reese Photo Studio.
First bale of cotton of the season was ginned at B & B Gin and grown by Leland Freeman on the farm of O. D. Pinkerton. The second was ginned for C. L. Goodwin.
Members of the WVHS Blue Devil 1953 team were: backs – Gaylon Booker, Joe Pegram, Jimmy Langford, Gerald Berry, Walter Russell, Bill Harris, Bobby Schmitz, Tommy Swearengen, Danny Wright and Ronald Pass; ends – Lowell Willingham, Jim McDonald, Charles Harris and Bubba Appleton; tackles – Don Brown, Claude Marchbanks, Houston Goodwin, Charles Larson, Sonny Sansom and Baxter Jones; guards – Gearell Wright, Jim Walker, Charles Goode, Don Edwards and Hubert Knight; centers – Jim Bell, Ralph McCain and David Vaughn.
• 70 years ago, Aug. 19, 1943 – G. E. Denley, veteran editor of the Coffeeville Courier for 35 years, died in the Grenada hospital after a long illness. He was one of north Mississippi’s most prominent newspapermen.
George Miles, formerly an employee of the Kraft Cheese Company and now in the South Pacific, received a promotion to Baker First Class in the U. S. Navy. Miles continued as one of the best-known bakers in Water Valley for many years after his return.
‘Whistle And Run’Charlie Dunn Visits In 1943