I was three years of age when my family moved to Elmsford, about six miles west of White Plains.
I can remember the trolley car ride between White Plains and Elmsford. The trolley track followed a two lane dirt road that a heavy rain could turn into a mire of muck Today it is a well lit six lanes of concrete with homes and stores covering most of the real estate.
At that time it was a frightening ride through complete darkness, void of any thing related to civilization. Added to that environment was the loud metallic noise of the wheels. The pitch and roll of the car made some folks sea sick.
We would leave the city glow of White Plains and merge into the frightening unknown for six miles. Neon lights were still years away. Street lights consisted of a bulb mounted fifteen feet up a pole under a serrated two foot round shield. The bulb was much like a 150 watt kitchen bulb with half the life expectancy and a quarter the brilliance. But, Ho!
After six miles of wilderness, the few scattered street lights of Elmsford became visible.
We would ride down hill for five blocks holding onto the edge of the seat. The trolley was known to have lost its brakes on this grade.
At the bottom of the grade the Putnam Valley railroad tracks crossed the road. The mighty iron horse, belching smoke and steam brought commuters from their offices in New York city to the bedroom communities around Elmsford. Each engineer had his own identifying whistle. It could be heard as the engine approached from a mile away. The low ghostly mown, (Whooo Whooo Who Whooooooo).
A gatekeeper who spent most of fourteen hours a day, came out his little round house and limped to the mechanical cranking device that lowered the crossing gates to traffic. When the gates were down he hung red kerosine lanterns on the gates for vehicle safety. Street lights were quite scarce and the area was dark.
No! The trolley never crashed through the gates, but some automobiles did. DWIs were not considered a menace at that time.
The last train at night arrived much after dark. Leaving the station, the engineer blew the whistle and applied full throttle making the big drive wheels spin. Then they would slow down to a slow increasing (chug......chug....chug.. chug). The fireman shoveled in five or six loads of coal to bring up a head of steam. Each time the firebox door was opened, the entire black sky lit up with the brilliance of a gigantic fireworks display. I was always awed by this event.
In Elmsford I learned of the existence of the stork. My brother Edwin arrived. I was not overly impressed though my mother told me how wonderful he was. To me he was a cry baby that made too much noise and smelly diapers. Time heals most everything.
GO TO the next chapter in my life
RETURN to the table of contents
RETURN to the Clarence Coogan Home Page