My friend and fellow blogger, Dwight Roth, recently wrote a story and included a picture about the Trolley car that ran along the street in front of his High School. That picture jogged my memory of my younger days living in Brooklyn. Back then, when we “Hitched a Ride” not only on a Trolley car, but just about anything that moved including Busses, Garbage Trucks, Delivery Trucks and as strange as it may seem the Subway.
This took place back in the mid/late 1940’s. I believe I mentioned in other blogs most of the families on my street were poor. There was no television, computers or cell phones so we kids had to find ways to entertain ourselves, like “Hitching a Ride”.
The Trolley cars were easy to hitch on to, since there were plenty of places on the back to grab onto. The best way to get on the back of the Trolley was when it was stopped. It was harder and more dangerous to hitch when the Trolley car was moving.
When the Motorman saw us kids hitched on the back, he stopped the Trolley then ran after us. Lucky for us we were faster and were able to run far enough that he just gave up. That didn’t stop us, we got right back on to continue our hitch.
Next were the city buses, actually one bus route ran up our street every day. Buses were more difficult to hitch on to because there was little to nothing to hold onto. The only way you could hitch on the bus was if a window were open as that was the only spot you could hold onto.
Delivery Trucks were hard to hitch onto since most were designed with no options that we could grab onto. Few had a big door handle on the back. If you could hold onto the door handle, you had to hold on for dear life, which took all your strength to keep from falling off.
Garbage Trucks were the best for hitching as they were designed for the crew that picked up the garbage in that the normal pick up crew consisted of three men, the driver and two worker bees that rode on the back of the truck that was fitted out with a platform for them to stand on and a handle to hold onto. At the end of my street was the Bay where large Garbage Scows docked to get the garbage collect each day.
The Garbage Trucks when full would go to the dock and dump the load into the scows. When the garbage Tucks went to unload, they only had the driver so that area where the worker bees would stand was free for us to hitch. Again, it was easiest to get on the Truck if it was stopped and harder if it was moving.
Now the Subway. When I look back at hitching on the Subway it was a no brainer. To get into the Subway System you had to pay the fare (at that time was fifteen cents) then once you paid, you were intitled to ride safely inside the Subway Car. If you were lucky enough and got a seat you could ride safely and in comfort. We were not there to ride safely or in comfort. We were there to ride on the back of the Subway Car for the “Thrill of the ride”.
We would wait until the Subway Train was leaving the station, run along the platform and leap onto the back of the Subway Car. Once you got on the car you had to move over to give your partner room to leap. If you miscalculated or slip when leaping, you could get badly hurt or if any part of your body touched the third rail the rail that supplied the energy to move the subway train you could get electrocuted.
The leap to get on the back of the Subway car was not a leap of faith but a leap of stupidity. Looking back at that time it was a miracle no one got seriously hurt. Actually I remember one kid who lived on our street, got seriously hurt. He was not the most coordinated kid and when he tried to get a hold on an open window he failed and fell under the bus.
I believe at lot of what we did as kids back Brooklyn was out of boredom. Boredom we could have easily filled with raising a garden to help feed our family or studied harder and get better grades. But we were poor street kids, the product of our environment, always following whatever the gang did so we would accepted.
© Robert A Evans
One thought on “Hitch a Ride”
What an interesting post Bob! I love your stories! You guys were crazy!!! Living on the edge for sure! I lived in the country so we did not try to do those things. I recall one of the boys who lived down by the river would jump the coal train when it slowed down and ride to the next town and then hop it and come back again. A really great story!!