In the happy long-ago days before the magazine lost me, The New Yorker used a drawing of two Beacon Hill ladies riding into Boston in the decorous parlor car of the Shore Line train. One of them is saying, "Dear me, no! They tore Boston down and put up something else."
Every hour upon the hour, a train departed South Station in Boston for New York City, and simultaneously a sister train left Grand Central Terminal bound for the Hub. The first station on the Shore Line out of Boston was Back Bay, but it was identical with the last station inbound, which was Trinity Place.
Folks who remember visits to Boston by train will know just about where we are at the moment, but perhaps will not realize that Trinity Place was also known to some improper Bostonians as the locale of the unpardonable sin. I jest, feebly, of course.
The venerated Isaac Watts's hymns had four verses, one to the Father, one to the Son, one to the Holy Ghost, and the fourth a composite paean to the Trinity. Now and then the closing hymn of the morning service might be limited to the first, second, and last stanzas, leaving out the Holy Ghost to save time. This was the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost, you see, and Trinity Place was Boston's Back Bay, and I don't know why I got mixed up in all this.
All I knew about Boston was summed up thus: If you wanted the subway, you went upstairs and took the elevated train; if you wanted Summer Street, you got off at Winter; and If you wanted Milk Street station, you got off at Water Street. The man to remember in Boston is not Paul Revere. He is Charlie on the elevated railway who doesn't have money to pay to get off, the man of the song who never returned. His wife passes him sandwiches as his car goes through Scollay Square again.
For some reason the hourly trains, Boston to New York, always stopped at Trinity Place or Back Bay, but I never knew of anybody who got off or on there. The Shore Line trains were top class. You could tell the true Bostonian ladies by their hats, and the real gentlemen by their gray flannels and blue serge jackets. And, of course, they would be reading The Transcript or The Atlantic. That was before they tore the place down.
Now, shortly after the train pulled out of Boston, it would gain noticeable momentum and would soon be madly tooling into Providence, R.I., and then on to the other wonders of the world. You would see the billboards along the right-of-way to edify the passengers. These were so placed that they could not be seen from any highway or from any place except the train windows, and by the passengers with their Bostonian hats and pants. The signs advertised two products. Both signs were black with white lettering. One said, "Gorton's Ready-To-Fry Codfish Cakes." The other said, "Burroughs Rustless Fly Screens, All Cities."
There were no other billboards to be seen all the way to Grand Central, and I suppose nowhere else in the world. The Shore Line was high class.
Somewhere along the line I picked up word that the Burroughs people had turned to billiard tables and had given up their fly-screen business, and that's that. Gorton's codfish cakes have survived, however. They are bravely swimming upstream but can be had if you know where to look and wish to enjoy a hearty Down East breakfast of baked beans, fried ham, eggs-over, and codfish cakes, although in the New Bedford area I think you'll need to ask for fish balls. ("An' Cap'n Simms he looks at me, he does, with tears in his eyes as big as fish balls, and he sez to me, he sez....")
However, I'm also told that Unilever now owns Gorton's, and you can reach them in Amsterdam, or, like Burroughs fly screens, in all cities.
Times certainly have.
About fly screens, let us consider: When United States labor legislation proliferated, there came a bind in the Maine blueberry situation. The stringent laws about equal opportunity and tax reports and working hours didn't exactly suit the unique nature of a blueberry harvest on the far-down barrens, and Sen. Holly Wyman of Milbridge looked about to see who was on his back, and he came up with an idea.
The next season, when he began his blueberry harvest at his cannery, he had several truckloads of Micmac and Maliseet Indians from New Brunswick, Canada, on hand, and no labor problems. Indians are above the boundary laws, and by dealing with their chief, Holly had no individuals on his payroll. If the IRS wanted to know anything, it could jolly well go to New Brunswick. The Indians came by families, they considered the outing a vacation, and they made Holly Wyman a blood-brother Micmac.
Alas! Somebody said Holly was abusing his workers, and their housing (far out on the wild blueberry plains) was inadequate. So at great expense, Holly built cabins with all the modern comforts, including gas cooking ranges, fly screens, and you-name-its. And the first thing his Indian workers did, next season, was to move the ranges out under the shade of a tree and tear out the screens in the windows. They weren't about to breathe strained air. And then they picked the blueberries. Then they went back to New Brunswick.
That is all at this time.