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Marian Potter


(1915 - 1996)

Marian Potter

Marian Potter, born on January 9, 1915, in Blackwell, Missouri, was the daughter of Samuel and Flora (Bookstaver) McKinstry. Her father worked as a railroad station agent in Missouri, experience that played an important part of Potter’s young life and that she later incorporated into her writing. Potter graduated from the University of Missouri with a journalism degree in 1939. In October, 1943, she married David Potter, and they had three children, Andrew, Pamela, and Rebecca, together.

Potter taught elementary school in Jefferson and Monroe countries, Missouri (1932-1935). She reported for Monroe City News in Monroe City, Missouri in 1939; served as an editor at the University of Missouri—Columbia (1940-1941); as a copy-reader at St. Louis Globe-Democrat (1942-1943); and as an assistant press officer at the United Nations Information Office in New York in 1944. Potter and husband David moved to Warren in 1946 after his discharge from the Army. They founded Warren’s first commercial radio station. During their early years in Warren, Potter wrote the children’s classic, The Little Red Caboose about a caboose who finds himself unimportant until he saves an out-of-control train rolling down a mountain. The family still receives royalties from this 1953 book. Later, Potter was an editorial writer for WNAE and WRRN radio stations in Warren (1962-1974), and was also a member of the board of directors of the Northern Allegheny Broadcasting Company (1965-1974).

In Milepost 67 (1965), a girl named Evaline Stevens grows up in Middling, Missouri as her father works on the nearby railroad. With this story similar to Potter’s own life, Mary Louise Birmingham of the New York Times writes that, “This pleasant chronicle evokes four seasons in long-ago Missouri with felicity and conviction,” a book “praiseworthy for an amiable narrative and for effective background detail.” Teenager Mark Frye in Mark Makes His Move (1986), despite his dubious actions, helps boost his family’s confidence and even becomes a town hero by saving an old woman’s schoolhouse from demolition. The Christian Science Monitor says of Mark Makes His Move: “This fully realized story of a boy’s growing up is beautifully written. Marian Potter creates a believable working-class family of good but not goody-goody people. The woodland setting and town seem real.”

Marian Potter enjoyed gardening, travel, and painting. Concerning her writing, she told Contemporary Authors Online that, “I believe I have chosen to write for children because they are so interesting.” She lived in Warren over 50 years until her death on October 5, 1996.

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The Little Red Caboose (1953)

The little red caboose saves the train when the engine cannot make it to the top of the mountain. Later editions have fewer pages.

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Author(s): Marian Potter
Illustrator(s): Tibor Gergely

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