Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Train-Spotting, Clevetown, Circa 1960
I usta LOVE "the Rapid." It spelled freedom to a 14-year-old who'd rather have been almost ANYWHERE else.
We lived on the West Side, but (against my strongest wishes) my folks sent me to St. Ignatius, which was Downtown, close to the industrial center of the City. This required me to have a bus pass for my daily commutes.
We lived in Lakewood, near The Valley, so the trip was longish, and demanded standing around in Clevetown weather in the dark of winter, along with myriad "dads" from the vicinity/neighborhood heading "Downtown" to work. I would be out there around 7 am, rain, snow, sleet, freezing pee, regardless, waiting for the bus. The smell of cigaret smoke was always densest the more miserable the weather.
The bus pass was liberation and "the Rapid" my underground railroad.
Nobody was watching me. Nobody demanded I exit the train at the St. Ignatius stop (w. 25th?)
Hell, no one demanded I exit the bus when it got to the w.117th street station stop, but I usually did. Carrying my brown bag-lunch and my unused school-books and standard, suburban, St. Ignatz mufti, I joined the daily, reluctant stream to the platforms.
But I usually also saw to it to miss the first train, on which all my neighbors departed. I'd dally (and smoke a furtive cigaret, mebbe buy a pack from the machine), and take the next train.
And then, very often, I would somehow forget to EXIT the train at St. Ignatz, down in the Flats, and continue downtown.
Where I'd switch trains out to the EAST side--after a cigaret...
Out there were the destinations of myriad Clevetown-area school field trips. Hundreds of kids daily cycling through Severance Hall, and the Museums, the University.
I'd ride the Shaker Heights line out to University, and hang around, surreptitiously smoking my Camels (which my dad smoked) until a really large group of kids from other schools would be shepherded into the venue, wherever; and once I was in I was in all day.
And on the way back home, I'd stop under the Terminal Tower for one of those incredible chocolate shake/malts from the fountain at Higbees.
I flunked out of St. Ignatz in the Flats in GLORIOUS fashion that spring. 1960? Sounds right. I went to Lakewood High for a year, and then we moved (back) to Santa Fe.
The weather aside, Clevetown in the decade of the 50s was idyllic for a young, privileged white boy.