Pat Arnold: Streetcar Pranks


MR. ARNOLD: Us kids, we'd put our money together and we didn't want to pay carfare and spend that money (7¢ per ticket). So we'd stop the conductor, they were real nice, and they knew what we were doing. We'd just say, "What time is the next car comin' by," or somethin' like that. And on the back there they had this big, somethin' like a cow catcher. It was a big cup that the other cars hooked on to. While we were talkin' one of the guys would get on the back of that and sit in it. Ride all the way to town.

MRS. ARNOLD: Free ride or a free lunch!

MR. ARNOLD: When we was goin' to school there was so durn many of us in our family, nine boys and seven girls, and we was goin' to a city school and had to pay. You lived in the county and ya couldn't go up there unless you paid, and then payin' the car fare too.

My father used to have to buy these books of tickets. And each one of us had one to last us say a week. And anyway to make money, the seats would fold over like this (in an upside down V) and we'd get on that car real fast and push the seats over and two or three of 'em would get down under it.

We wouldn't let the conductor see who was in there. We'd stand all around him and give him the ticket! And that was the money we could spend that day for that ticket. We'd sell it to somebody and spend the money for candy.

When I was a kid down here at night time all the boys would go up there in that station. It was just an open station, corrugated metal and benches all the way around it. The station was right at the corner of Potomac Avenue and Belle Haven Road. And that's where all the trouble started.

MRS. ARNOLD: How 'bout puttin' that money on the tracks?

MR. ARNOLD: Oh yes!

MRS. ARNOLD: Greasin' the tracks!

MR. ARNOLD: Yeah, there was a man that worked for the Potomac Yards, a southern railroad. His name was Clark and he lived in that Flattops. He used to get us those torpedos you'd put on the track. It was like a bomb they put on the track. And they put 'em on the rail roads in those days for an emergency, ya know. But down here we just put 'em out for the hell of it, to scare people.

Used to grease the tracks too. We could see the street car comin' and we used to get these buckets of grease from this old man, Mr. Clark, and we'd grease that track for as far as you could see. And here it'd come, hell bustin', get to this station and slap on those brakes, and just keep on goin'! That was the only thing we had to do in those days down here.

Then there was those sassafras trees that always grew along the rail road track. They'd have the men come down a certain time of year and they'd cut 'em. And they didn't get any higher than three feet, but burn, boy those things would really burn! At night time we'd get a big pile of 'em, all us boys, and put 'em right in the middle of the track.  And we'd see that train comin' across and we'd set it on fire. My father used to, oh boy, he used to ...

Volume Two, Table of Contents
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