Monday, October 12, 2009

What Hath Been Lost?


From the time I was old enough to get on one of those big yellow electric land boats I loved the clang of the bells and the clackety-clack of metal wheels on metal rails and putting a token in the box under the watchful eye of the motorman. You could go almost anywhere in Minneapolis on those wonder-wagons. Sometimes when I just wanted to get away from home for a few hours or just for the ride, I would get on at Plymouth and Morgan and get a transfer to the Hennepin line, then another to the Lake Calhoun-Lake Harriet which took you around both lakes. All the way to the end of the line at about 56th Street in those 1940s and early 50s days cost just one token— ten cents! But you better have another token to get back or you would have a long walk or a sore thumb. In summer all the windows would be down and you could feel the alternating cool and warm, sometimes hot, breezes as the motorman cranked it up to 30 or 40 miles an hour going through back yards and alleys behind huge homes around the lakes. Sometimes the connector to the overhead electric lines would slip off and we would grind to a halt, the conductor would jump off, go around the rear of the car and deftly pull on the rope attached to the pulley until he had it back on and away we would go.



It was in the late 50s while I was attending the University of Minnesota that they began to disappear. I don’t remember when the last of the tracks were dug up, but I remember missing those old lumbering yellow metal and wood behemoths. The Minneapolis Streetcar was no more, replaced by ugly, shiny new smoke belching buses. This was progress?


A group of retired streetcar fanatics in recent years resurrected the Lake Harriet to Lake Calhoun line and brought back one of the old streetcars that you can ride for two bucks from the Lake Harriet Station to Lake Calhoun and back. This summer I took my kids and grandkids and great grandkids, (or rather, they took me) for their first ride on a Streetcar! They actually had a motorman and conductor who gave a little spiel about the Minneapolis Streetcar Museum they had founded and the history of this great mode of transportation. I hope we come to our senses soon about the way we get around. I’m all for bringing back the streetcars!


My Great Grandson Jack with his grandparents

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