Polytechnic High School

 

1955

The Perennial Parrot is a newsletter put out by Robert "Bob" Ross, class of 1955. The paper has a loyal following of Polyites from all through the years. This is a story from the 1992 issue.

Perennial Parrot

The "N" Judah is one line of the fabled San Francisco streetcars. For you non-San Franciscans, streetcars are not Cable Cars- cable cars use different technology altogether. The "N" Judah started service in 1928, traveling on tracks from 48th Avenue to downtown Market Street and back again. It was important to Polytechnic High School because it passed on the street directly behind the school. In the days before every other student had an automobile, it was the primary means of transportation for Poly students- whether traveling outbound to the Avenues or inbound to Market St. Two years after the incident described here. in 1957, MUNI (the San Francisco Municipal Railway) switched the "N" Judah from older 2-man streetcars to single-operator PCC cars.

And now, from the pages of the Perennial Parrot, with thanks to Bob Ross (publisher) and Dorine Bickle n Bergstrom (writer), we present "the Great N Judah Caper".

 


MUNI Conductor
MUNI Conductor

 

  Old N Judah
Old "N" Judah

The Unsolved Mystery of the Runaway "N" Judah Streetcar

N Judah

"Aunti" Dorine Bickle
(alias "Grandma Mickey Mouse")

On a sunny afternoon about 3:11, approximately 100 students came streaming out of Poly High School onto Carl Street eagerly awaiting the arrival of the dreaded "N" Judah. By 3:14 it came chugging down the tracks to stop in front of the crowd that had grown to mob proportions. The multitude charged the car like bee's to honey
(or flies to s_ _ _).

The "N" Judah streetcar was built in three sections. The front compartment was open-aired for the motorman and passengers (passengers that smoked mostly). The middle section was closed for passengers only and opened on both ends with sliding doors. The rear section was open-aired, like the front, for the conductor, his fare box, and standing and smoking passengers. Passengers entered the streetcar at the rear, paid their fare into the conductor's fare box and received a transfer from the conductor if they needed to ride another streetcar or bus after departing the "N".

After the conductor greets the passengers, collects the fares, issues transfers, and screams at passengers to move to the front of the coach, he informs the motorman that the coast is clear by pulling a cord that rings a bell over the motorman's head ... "Two Rings to go or One Ring to stop".

 With a look of pure terror on his face, the conductor braces himself as the students surge forward. He punches car tickets, issues transfers while constantly screaming: "Step to the front of the car ... Step to the front of the car".  Now somewhere in the middle of this mob, pushing ever forward, are six of the sweetest, kindest, most gentle of Poly Girls: Diane & Joanne Jones, Carolyn Bier, Dorine Bergstrom, and Sue & Barbara Cohen. By the time our "ladies" are on the car there is no more room for others to get on. The conductor is beside himself wondering why the crowd can't move forward ... so, a mistake, a very big one, is about to happen.

Our "brave" conductor squeezes through the sardine packed passengers and gets off the streetcar. He then starts walking along the outside the car, looking into the windows searching for the bottleneck. As he walks, one of our "lovely ladies" grabs the "magic cord" and rings the bell twice informing the motorman it is safe to proceed to the next stop.

 

 

With a hoot and a holler the little trolley jerks forward and rattles off down the track, toward downtown, leaving the poor conductor standing on the track screaming "Train ... Come Back Train!"

The streetcar continues on stopping for passengers and letting passengers off. One of our Poly "ladies" now directs new passengers to deposit their fare into the collection box, issues transfers for those needing them, rings the bell twice to have the motorman continue, rings the bell once to inform the motorman that someone wants to depart and to stop at the next stop. If a customer needs change to pay the fare, they are instructed to pay double next time and are given a transfer regardless.

This happy little group continues on its merry way for many blocks, through the Buena Park tunnel onto Duboce Street, starting and stopping until finally reaching Market Street. There, waiting for the "N" Judah, are the Municipal Railway Inspectors and several members of San Francisco's Finest Police Department. This menacing group approaches the streetcar and the word flies through the car to our "ladies" faster than the men can reach the entrance of the streetcar. Our girls squeeze through the passengers toward the front of the car and depart "Like Thieves in The Night". Safe, and walking down the street, they look back at the "N" Judah to see the inspectors rummaging through the car searching for the culprits that stole it and left a half-crazed conductor standing on the tracks talking to himself.

The following morning, the "N" Judah car long forgotten, our girls file into school happy as lambs. As registry ends, we are informed of a special assembly being held in the auditorium. Thrilled, everyone files into the auditorium only to find, much to their dismay, the stage filled with the dreaded Muni Inspectors and S.F.'s Finest. The "honored" guests spoke for about 45 minutes about the way students should conduct themselves on public transportation, etc, etc, etc. Also they wanted information that would lead to the punishment of the person or persons who took an "N" Judah streetcar and left a grown man in tears. Never a word was said, although many knew the truth ... and for 37 years this mystery has remained UNSOLVED!

*** MORAL ***

 Polytechnic students are always true to God, Family, Country and most of all (especially in this case) to each other.

*** THE END ***

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