EARLY MASS TRANSIT IN PLANO
September 4, 2011
It swayed back and forth, back and forth until your eyes closed and sleep took over your consciousness. The gentle rhythmic motion of the interurban and the click-click, click-clack soothed the soul as you rode slowly over the rails. Just as you dozed off, suddenly the lurch of the Interurban would try to throw your head against the fingerprinted glass in the window. It would have too but Mother’s hand on my head received the brunt of the blow. My naps were brief from Plano to McKinney, but longer on the ride to Dallas.
The seats all faced front except for the first seats behind the conductor in the black clothes and black hat. Those seats, or benches, were fastened with the backs against the side of the car facing the riders across the aisle. That is why I always noticed the strange woman. She sat at the front of the car in her conspicuous costume that no child could miss.
I wanted a trinket from the person with the strange pointed hat with stars, moons, and asteroids colorfully adorning it. I always chose different things to take home to place in my box of treasures, probably never to look at again. Sometimes I chose a celluloid toy that glowed in the dark. Another time it might be a toy horoscope sign, a stiff, hollow, white celluloid scorpion with funny feet that never seemed to be cut out properly. I always thought it was somewhat sloppy, but I would try to trim them perfectly when I got back home. Unfortunately, some of the two-inch scorpions were victims of amputation after trying to manicure them. The amputated limbs never seemed to bother me because I knew I could get another one on our next trip. That person in black with the tall pointed black hat with lots of orange images on it was always on the Interurban that picked us up in Plano. I guess she traveled up from Dallas, maybe going all the way to Sherman and back. She was always there. Now, as an adult, I wonder if there were several of these strangely dressed ladies with celestial goods for sale who made a living riding the rails and selling their wares to inquisitive little children.
Green leather appearing fabric enveloped the double benches. The covering had a slight texture that appeared to have been twisted before being stretched tightly over the padding. On the corner of the back on the isle side was a handy brown metal handle that passengers held onto with one hand while holding the overhead strap handles hanging from the car’s ceiling. We seldom had to stand on the way to McKinney or Dallas unless we were traveling during rush hour, but Mother always tried to avoid the crowded times. We preferred to sit and of course, I always chose the window seat, sometimes playing with the window to raise it up and down. It was difficult as I was too little to be strong enough to open or close the window perfectly, but I could raise it and lower it. This was entertaining until the swaying back and forth and the regular click-clack of the rails rocked me to sleep. Mass transit today is different, even though it travels over the same rails, sleep does not visit, and the strangely dressed women of the rail are gone.
I loved to sit by the window and watch the countryside slide past me. It was different every season. The grass at times was green, some had reddish stems at the roots, and others were tall with long, thin leaves and seeds on the tips that I later learned to recognize as Johnson grass. Milkweed was also pretty to find on these journeys as well as the different kinds of trees. I kept an eye out for a large stand of trees for I knew that meant a creek was nearing. The creek water was always the color of tea stained with cream, unless it had the heavy green slime on top indicating that the water was stagnant and probably had a heavy stench that made the end of my nose crinkle up. Straining to see down into the creek as we crossed over it, my view into the creek was usually blocked when a thin green tree branch slapped the outside of the window, startling me, much to the delight of my mother and my aunt who always chuckled aloud.
Gone are the days of the interurban running between Sherman and Waco. Now DART trains travel over some of those same rails, but much faster than the interurban. The sway and click-clack are still there, only the times have changed. There is no one on board selling celestial objects to spoiled kids.
Brenda Kellow has a bachelor's degree in history, teaches, and lectures on genealogy. Before retiring to publish her family’s histories in 2007, Brenda held certification as a Certified Genealogist and as a Certified Genealogical Instructor. Send reunion announcements, books to review, and genealogy queries to: TracingOurRoots@gmail.com.