Thursday, February 16, 2012

Charlie on the MTA

 The other day while cruisin' to my favorite Oldie station, WARE, the song Charlie and the MTA* by The Kingston Trio came on. I hadn't heard this song in a long time so I started to hum along.

The song celebrates a fare increase from ten cents to fifteen cents. Charlie couldn't get off the train because he didn't have the extra nickle.

One verse of the song, "Charlie's wife goes down to the Scollay Square** station  every day at quarter past two
And through the open window, she hands Charlie a sandwich, as the train goes rumbling through."

MTA stood for Metropolitan Transit Authority. In 1964, the agency name was changed to the MBTA, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority or simply the "T"

Scollay Square (pronounced Scully) is now known as Government Center. It's the station where the Green and Blue Lines cross. I think the signs in the station have been changed to Government Center - Scollay Square as a nod to the city's past. In my parents' day, Scollay Square was the burlesque and theater district. My mother and a group of her cousins saw the famed tassel dancer, Sally Rand perform at a theater in the Square.

"T" riders no longer use cash or tokens to ride. At each station, day riders can purchase a paper ticket known as a Charlie ticket. Commuters purchase a Charlie Card which acts like a debit card. You load a certain amount of money on the card. Riders scan Charlie cards and tickets at the turnstiles to enter the station.

The "T" is coincidentally involved in town meeting discussions about another fare increase and ways to improve commuter service.

Just for fun, why do you think Charlie's wife never tossed him a nickel so he could get off the train?


  1. Oh my goodness, poor Charlie. I always wondered the same thing, why she would give him a sandwich every day but no nickel. Been a long time since I heard that, thanks for sharing it.

  2. perhaps it was pleasanter at home if she just took him the sandwich. :D

  3. Just so you know, that song has been stuck in my head now since I listened to it yesterday! Will he EVER return?

  4. Because then there'd be no song? Ha!