Today I had a meeting in Boston and took the Green Line “T” to get me there. The great thing about the Green Line” is that it gets you just where you want to go. This is because, and the bad part, it stops everywhere! But it was a beautiful mild and sunny day; so well worth the quiet ride. And for some reason I started thinking about the Kingston Trio, who popularized the song “M.T.A.”
Poor Charlie! Although the ultimate literalist, I always wondered if Charlie’s wife could hand him a sandwich, why she didn’t just hand him a nickel. According to the Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority (we now call it the MBTA) the origin of this song was written for the 1949 mayoral campaign of Walter A. O’Brien. This was to remind voters of O’Brien’s recent opposition to a fare increase where riders were charged an extra nickel to exit at above ground train-stops. It should be noted that O’Brien’s campaign was unsuccessful.
A NICKEL! When I grew up the fare on the NYC subway was 15 cents. The nickel fare in NYC was instituted at the opening of the subway on October 27, 1904 and lasted forty-four years. After that they made up for lost time and currently that nickel or the 15 cents of my youth has grown to its current $2.75. It seems appropriate to quote the famous populist candidate William Jennings Bryant who said: “You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns; you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” So much for the view that a legitimate role of government is subsidizing the working man and stimulating commerce. Sounds SOCIALIST!
Anyway, riding home this glorious afternoon, it occured to me to see if I could find a historic photograph of the MBTA from it’s opening day, 1 September 1897, and Figure 1 is it. The trolleys are shown at the Boston Public Garden Portal of the Tremont Street Subway. At left is a car outbound to Pearl Street, Cambridge; at right is a car inbound from Reservoir and a crosstown car via Pleasant Street.