Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sentimental Sunday: Got a Token for the IRT?

Top row: 1953, 1970, 1980 tokens; bottom row: 1979, 1986, 1995 tokens
Growing up in the Bronx, the IRT subway was the fastest way to get from the northern end of the city to anywhere else in the Big Apple. (IRT is short for Interborough Rapid Transit.) My sisters and I rode the subway to high school. And of course we dropped a subway token into the turnstile to get to "the city"--Manhattan--for any reason. We thought nothing of being a straphanger for an hour to get to a museum or work or Radio City Music Hall. My penny loafers had tokens instead of pennies, just in case I was ever stranded somewhere and needed carfare.

Today's New York Times discusses and pictures 15 additional objects that readers chose to represent New York City, supplementing a list of 50 objects printed by the Times a few weeks ago. Alas, the iconic subway token pictured in the article (with the cutout Y) has now been consigned to the scrapheap of history by undistinguished MetroCards (introduced in 2003).

But as shown above, I have a sentimental collection of tokens, and I identified the intro year of each with the help of a NYC Subway website (unaffiliated with the actual subway).

One treasured keepsake in my collection is a token issued at only one place, the bus terminal at Orchard Beach in the Bronx, to get on a bus and connect with a subway or another bus elsewhere in the borough. The bus terminal was operated by the Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority (MABSTOA)--shortened to M.A.B. in the center of the token, shown below.

Orchard Beach token issued by Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority
On a summer's day, Sis and I would take a bus up Pelham Parkway to connect with a second bus going to the Riviera of the Bronx. On the return trip, we'd line up at the beach bus terminal, buy a token, drop it into the turnstile slot, and board the bus that would take us back to Pelham Parkway for the connection with our bus home. Total travel time was about 40 minutes, if memory serves, and the return trip was sandier, of course.

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