Sunday, November 27, 2011

Boston 1974 - 2


Last time we looked at a few Boston transit scenes as they were in 1974. You can't get these pictures any more. The vehicles have changed, and in part the city has changed too.

This time though we are going to see almost total change. We're going to North Station.

I walked up that way twice last month. I didn't have a map. I just wandered.

The first time I crossed Boston Common and saw people getting ready for a charity run, and I walked up into Beacon Hill on a street I can't remember, and back down, and then along some other street. Eventually I saw tracks going up onto an elevated structure and realized I was beyond North Station. I could see the elevated structure going out to Science Park. I went back east.

Another day I walked up Tremont Street and then through the modernist ugly City Hall block and came up to North Station from the south.

The Green and Orange lines used to come up out of the subway two blocks south of Causeway Street, six tracks wide, side by side, between Canal Street and Haverhill Street. The east pair, the Orange Line, came up to an elevated structure and turned right at Causeway Street. Of the left four tracks, the outer pair came up to another elevated structure and turned left at Causeway Street, and the middle pair came up to street level and ended at a loop on the south side of Causeway Street. It's all gone.

Here are two details of aerial views from the 1920s, from the Boston Public Library. I have added some labels.

It looked almost the same fifty years later. The same Boston Garden over North Station, and the same elevated structure.

Here's the Orange Line side.

Everything in this photograph is gone.

We're looking from the North Station platform of the Orange Line. That's the canopy at upper left. The two-car train has just left and made its right-angle right turn into Causeway Street, and it's passing under the Fitzgerald Expressway.

My note on the back says: Sign at bottom of picture notes new subway which will replace this elevated line within a few years. Actually it was only one year later. But that's only the elevated line.

The Orange Line went underground in 1975. The John F Fitzgerald Expressway was closed in 2003 and torn down, replaced by the Big Dig. I don't know when the tall building on the left side was demolished, but it's gone now, and so is the other building on the right, behind the expressway.

I am a liar. Causeway Street itself is still there. But everything else is gone.

From the same location, in 1974, if we turn our gaze to the left, we see this.

Again, almost everything in this photograph is gone.

A bit of the canopy of the Orange Line's North Station is at upper right. In the background is Boston Garden, built over the Boston and Maine Railroad's North Station, torn down in 1997. That's gone, replaced by a new TD Garden. The Green Line elevated was torn down in 2005. The buildings on the left might be there: I am not sure.

In 1974 the Green Line had two stations called North Station. The PCC car above is running south on the elevated line from Lechmere. It has already stopped at the elevated North Station, and made a right-angle turn from there to where we see it here. Right below it, not visible, was the other North Station.

My notes on the back say: Trolley car running toward the subway, after leaving North Station stop, which is partly visible in the rear around a right-angle turn. Sign, center, cautions trolley motormen to go slow on curve "to aid in reducing noise". I wonder how much that helped.

Here is the surface-level station below.

This was at street level, in pavement, but separated from street traffic by a fence. The car in view is facing the same direction as the one in the previous photo, but directly below it.

The car shown was a D car, the Riverside Line. It terminated at North Station in the summer of 1974. If you entered here, you walked across the loop track. You could walk over to that car and get on, or you could go up the stairs and follow a passageway over Causeway Street to go west on the other Green Line cars or north to Lechmere.

Everything seen here is gone now, except the taller building in the distance. I'm not sure what it is.

Here's the Green Line elevated station.

We're over Causeway Street, looking west. Boston Garden and North Station (B&M) would be on the right. The car in the first photo is coming from Lechmere.

The buildings on the left are still there. I saw them last month.

I took photos of the old and new City Hall. The old one was purchased by a developer and renovated. In 1974 I was sure I knew which one I liked better. I didn't pass by the old one last month but I did walk through the open plaza around the new one. My opinion has not changed.

I left Boston last month from South Station. I didn't take a picture of it in 1974, but I remember it as cavernous and dark and impossibly decrepit. The unwashed armpit of Boston. No, that was North Station. South Station was something worse.

At any rate, South Station today looks wonderful. It's light and open, and full of people. There are many food and other businesses in it, and they seemed busy, even at midday. I was glad to see it. I'm used to Penn Station, which is garbage. South Station is how it should be.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Boston 1974 - 1


I went to Boston for a conference a few weeks ago. I didn't bring the camera, and I'm feeling increasingly old fashioned not carrying a camera phone either. But anyway, no pics for you.

It reminded me that I do have a few photographs of Boston transit, and they're the kind you can't get any more. You'd have to go back to the summer of 1974 to get them. The negatives are missing, so I've had to scan the prints, which have undergone some color shift over the years. The past actually came in the same colors as today, as far as I recall. It just looks like this in old photos.

Last month I stayed in Brookline and commuted a short way to the event on the C car of the Green Line. That was fun. I got off the Acela at Back Bay and walked up to Copley. It's only two blocks. Easy if you have only a small bag.

At Copley I went in on the outbound side of course. It's a conventional stairway in the sidewalk subway entrance. But I took a look across the street to check that the inbound side still has the wonderful kiosk we saw way back when.

That's... just amazing. I imagine the city fathers felt a civic duty not to deface the magnificent public library with a humdrum subway entrance out front. Or an iron works gave political contributions to the right people. Either way: well done. And it's been kept up. Even the modern green sign somehow looks like it belongs there.

That's Helen. Just for scale.

We had some free time in the afternoons. The vendor fair was only so big, and once I'd been through it a couple of times and spoken to people at the few directly relevant booths, I felt like it would be good for me to go outside and walk around.

One day I rode out to Harvard Square. Do you know that if you look up at a certain building in Harvard Square, you can see the offices of Dewey Cheatham and Howe on the third floor? This is not from 1974: it's from Google Street View. I have not altered the image except to add the helpful arrow.

Back in '74, while walking around with Helen at Harvard Square we just happened to find ourselves at the south portal of the trolley bus tunnel at Mount Auburn Street. Don't know how that happened.

Here is a blast from the past.

You don't see that kind of bus any more. That car, maybe.

The portal is still there, approximately, but there's a large building now on top of it, so the scene is almost unrecognizable. At this time you could still see the remains of streetcar track on the right.

Be sure to notice how banged-up the front of that bus looks. These things looked old to me even then. It was as if the MTA could no longer figure out where to buy a trolley bus and didn't know what else to do but just send out the ones they had no matter what shape they were in.

Also notice the left-side door. It's there only for the stop in the bus tunnel.

From this angle you can see that the abandoned track is in the same path taken by one of the bus lines, the 72. It still makes its last stop at Harvard Square in the tunnel, comes out here with no passengers, loops around the block, and goes back in again to start its run.

Here's my favorite of today's batch.

I wrote on the back of this one: A two-car train of trolley cars at Chestnut Hill Avenue on the Boston College line, in Brighton. That's the B car line. This scene looks very much the same today except for the type of trolley.

Another short trip I took last month was to the Mattapan High Speed Line (sic) at the end of the Red Line Ashmont branch. It's a railfan favorite but I'd never found an excuse to go down there. To my surprise, it's still run by PCC trolleys just like the ones above, but painted in the old orange and cream colors. So you don't have to go to a trolley museum or San Francisco to ride them.

I think they looked great in green and white. And I love the T in a white circle: why has the New York system never had a good symbol? Sorry, the dark blue M does not cut it.

That boy is 31 years older now (I hope!).

Here is the railfan geek shot.

The B, C, and D lines are very close to one another at Chestnut Hill Avenue, so it's a choice location
if you want to go out one way and back another. We walked past the end of the C line at Cleveland Circle and found this in the block between there and the D Riverside line.

My note on the back says: Entrance to storage yard and repair shop at Cleveland Circle. The yellow vehicle is a very old boxcar trolley. Besides that, two of the PCC cars are in the colors they still use now on the Mattapan line. There is still a transit yard here but these buildings and cars are gone.

A few paces farther east and we're over the Riverside line, at Reservoir station. The most recent of the Green Line branches, this route opened in 1959, running in a former mainline railroad branch. The splindly concrete stairways still looked a little makeshift fifteen years later.

My note on the back points out: Train of very old red cars in distance on a siding. Yes. It's not clear whether they're in the storage yard or on a siding of the former railroad right of way. The track in the foreground ran from the yard (or even from the B or C lines) around to the right and down to the D line. It's gone now.

Today this scene looks very different. The overpass is much wider, providing a bus loop in the empty space out to about the end of the hind trolley car, and the stairs have been replaced. You can hardly see the D line from the street, and only a large T sign alerts you to the station.

(to be continued)


Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Veteran's Day


Leather patch of the 561st Bomb Squadron of the 388th Bomb Group.

My father entered the Army Air Force in January 1943. The flight records in his folder show training flights at Gulfport Army Air Field MS from July to October 1944 and Hunter Field GA in October 1944.

The next record is from December 1944 at an unstated location for "8th, 3d Air Div, 388th, 561st". We know from other records now public that he was at RAF Knettishall in Suffolk County, England. Technically a Royal Air Force base, it was used exclusively by the United States Army Air Force's 388th Bombardment Group from June 1943 to August 1945. Its only other use was for a few years more as British army supply base. There is a monument at the site.

Peter Brennan flew 33 missions from Knettishall, from November 16, 1944 to March 29, 1945. His role was togglier in a B-17 "Flying Fortress" aircraft. The togglier sat in the glass nosecone, next to the navigator who was behind and to the left. He released the bombs, and he also had a forward-pointing gun. This late in the war, my father said, the Luftwaffe were almost gone, so almost all the enemy fire was from anti-aircraft guns on the ground.

He is sometimes described on paper as a bombardier, and on a rare occasion that he talked about it, he said that technically the lead plane in the formation had a bombardier who determined when to drop, and that the toggliers in the other planes just dropped when they saw lead plane drop. A few days ago I got a better description from Dick Henggeler, 388th Bomb Group historian:
A bombardier was an officer who was able to use the Noden bombsight. A toggilier was able to arm and release the bombs manually. In the group the bombardier in the lead plane released his bombs using the bombsight. All other planes released their bombs when they saw the lead ship release.

The bombsight was very complicated to use and required a lot of training. It actually took into account air speed, ground speed, altitude, and humidity. The bombardier actually flew the plane on the bomb run remotely. I am sure that it is easier to tell people bombardier (which they could understand) rather than toggelier.

The Good Conduct Medal.
It is awarded for exemplary behavior, efficiency, and fidelity in active Federal military service. It is awarded on a selective basis to each Soldier who distinguishes himself or herself from among his or her fellow Soldiers by their exemplary conduct, efficiency, and fidelity throughout a specified period of continuous enlisted active Federal military service, as outlined in this chapter. There is no right or entitlement to the medal until the immediate commander has approved the award and the award has been announced in permanent orders. — Army Regulation, Military Awards
Peter Brennan's 33 missions are all listed on the 388th web page.

There's always more to the story than a list of data. The longest gap he had was between December 31 and Jan 20, a full 18 days. Any reason? Yes.

The December 31 mission, his tenth, was a bad one. Co-pilot Stevens was killed in action. Ball turret gunner Martin and waist gunner Sevy did not fly again. This must be the mission my father told my brother about once. He said only he and the pilot came back in good shape, and that he helped carry out a dead crew member.

He and engineer Huntzinger reappear in a new crew on January 20, and tail gunner Woods joined them January 29.

The crew they joined, Edelman, hadn't had it easy either. They crashed on January 5, apparently in Germany, attributed to flak. None died. Three men became POWs and did not fly again, but they survived the war. The six others are listed as "evadee" but that word is all we get from the available record. Did they get out together? How? Whatever happened, they were not all back in action until February 15. They were put together into their old crew as they became available for duty. The three men from the SmithO crew, including my father, replaced the POWs.

The plane from the December 31 mission, now flown by another crew, met its end in a crash on January 20, and the men were all taken as POWs.

The Air Medal.
The Air Medal is awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity in or with the U.S. Army, will have distinguished himself or herself by meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight. Awards may be made to recognize single acts of merit or heroism, or for meritorious service... — Army Regulation, Military Awards

The exact requirements for this medal varied. To some degree the "meritorious achievement" was measured by ships and aircraft destroyed and by number of missions flown in combat. The relevant example was that the Eighth Air Force Third Bombardment Division defined the criteria in April 1944 as six "Bomber, Bomber-Fighter, Photographic, Air Transport, or Observation sorties with distinction" for the medal, and then an oak leaf cluster for each six additional sorties.

At the completion of his tour my father had the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters, which makes five awards. As stated on a typed document dated April 4, the dates follow his missions 6, 12, 19, 28, and 32. Characteristically, I feel, he did not bother to attach the oak leaf clusters to the ribbon! Allowing for delays, the six awards correspond to the first 30 missions completed "with distinction".

My father completed 33 missions. The standard by this date was 35, and you better believe the men counted those missions. My sister has the paper where our father wrote out each mission, one per line, make that one per numbered line. There wasn't going to be any mistake!

Of the original Edelman crew, two had reached 35, three 34, and one 33. The three added to replace the original crew POWs, including my father, were at 33, 33, and 30. I suppose the commander could have kept most of them around to see if they could fill in another mission or two with other crews, but there must not have been enough need. And besides the main reason they weren't all at 35 together was that six of them had "evaded" after a crash and the other three had escaped serious injury from flak. They'd done enough.

But my brother recalls our father being astonished. As he told my brother, when they came in after the mission and were told that their tour of duty was complete, he felt the need to point out to the officer that he had only 33. And when told again, he actually repeated that he had only 33, causing the officer to firmly say he was all done. And then he said to my brother, still not believing it some sixty years later, "but I only had 33!".

More information at the 388th BG Association web site.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

After the Storm


We survived Snotober. That was the stupidest name I heard for the Great Snowy Nor'easter of October 29, 2011, so I love it. As I write this a week later, some places in New Jersey still don't have power back. By some miracle our house lost power for only three hours, on Saturday afternoon. But parts of town were out well into Tuesday.

Our neighbor had a tree fall on the electric line to their house, and that one-house restore job was not done until 6:15 Friday night. It's too bad that after six and and a half days without power, the PSEG truck with the flashing light was out front of their house for only ten minutes taking care of it. But then, the crew have had a lot of practice by now.

On Saturday I ran to Millburn and went up the switchback trail on the mountain. Crest Drive— ironically not a drive any more but a paved walk and bike road along the top of the ridge— is full of downed trees. It's just a one-mile dead end into the park, with no power lines and no houses or other buildings, so it's going to be among the last roads cleared.

The tree damage was not so much from wind but from the weight of the wet "white mud" snow on still-leafy branches. It's amazing how far branches can bend without breaking. And then they bend back up when the snow falls off. But there is a limit. Around the neighborhood the damage is mostly tree branches, but up there it was whole trees, and some big ones.

Remember, it's not January, it's this season:

The squirrels tried one of the gourds, but it turned out to be not a pumpkin, so they let it go.

Sign of the times, below. Most houses in town have a pile of branches out front, which, rumor has it, will be picked up some day by the town. This is the neighbors' pile. Most of this is the tree that took out their electric power.

That's our driveway, bottom left. It's a little tricky backing out with this thing piled as high as the car, but we can manage it. Considering this is the worst we have to deal with, we'll call ourselves lucky and shut up.

I walked around the property to see how the outside plants dealt with the snowfall.

I had not noticed these delicate looking flowers before.

Hardy Cyclamen is a bulb plant that blooms in the autumn. Helen told me she planted it a few years ago. I'm not sure I can see any of the cyclamen's own leaves in there. It's got some autumn sun on it. I don't know what insects are active now to visit the flowers. But we had some buzzing around the week before the snow came.

Most of the asters have gone to seed by now, but I found a few still in flower in sheltered areas in back of the house.

You wouldn't look at this and think it snowed seven days earlier.

Globe Amaranth is an annual. We have a group grown Helen grew from seed in a planter. It's said to be tropical but it came through the snow and the recent frosty nights very well. The leaves are still green and it's raising its flowers to the sun.

Well, all right, I tipped the planter a little to get a good shot of the flower. It's actually holding them out sideways. I just wanted to say it was raising its flowers to the sun. It was, for a minute there.

This is either Pale Smartweed or Lady's Thumb, two closely related wildflowers, and probably the former. You can call it a weed, if you object to plants you didn't put there yourself. We find it here and there around the garden. It's small. I don't know why one would object.

Speaking of weeds, here are some more asters in flower, on top of dying hostas. This is in a little corner hemmed on three sides by the house and a fence.

Feverfew continues to stake out its position in a crack of soil between the house and the driveway. This is not the same plant that survived last winter. That one recently went to seed and dried up. This new group is two feet away. It's a medicinal herb introduced from Europe, now growing wild. Supposedly it requires full sun, but the only place it volunteers on our property is here on the northeast side of the house where it gets no more than a few rays of sun early in the morning. It stays green all winter and looks like it's thriving.

Thanks to Helen for naming the plants!