A Streetcar named Travellick. “A Streetcar Named Desire”.
That second one is recognizable by most everyone as Tennessee Williams play and movie. The movie starring Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh is set in New Orleans or a reasonable facsimile thereof.
You’d have to live in our town to have even heard about a streetcar named Travellick, and that would have been many years ago. As with some modern transportation systems, our streetcars have gone to the streetcar graveyard, and been replaced by buses. New Orleans does still have classic streetcars, no doubt ridden by tourists and others.
In today’s world as well, I’m not sure what they consider as entertainment for middle school graduation, perhaps a trip to the International Space Station. That might have to wait for a while, because one of Richard Branson’s spaceships crashed, setting ordinary human travel back for a period of time.
We had grammar school back then through the eighth grade, before we took that monumental step to high school. The high school seemed to be so distant it had to be on another continent where people were surely 10 or 12 feet tall, and they spoke in words very different than ours. Of course that was only a frightening perception, because the high school was just down the street, the people were of normal height, and they might have delved into the dictionary to know a word or two we didn’t.
Who came up with the idea to board the streetcar in front of our grammar school, and ride ten miles to an outlying community and ten miles back, I have no idea. The streetcar took that route every weekday for sure, and maybe on Saturday and Sunday for all I knew.
On the very front it noted the destination as Travellick. I should have found out exactly where or what that was. No destination by that name existed in my knowledge, but perhaps an insignificant stop along the way was called Travellick. The name was so intriguing I didn’t really want to know because that would have removed the mystery behind it. Some mysteries are so much better when they are left unsolved.
The Travellick streetcar resembled the New Orleans streetcars in two respects. As with all streetcars, there was the power pole connected to the overhead electric power line. Occasionally that became disengaged and the operator had to exit the streetcar and reposition it. The New Orleans Streetcars and ours were of steel descent.
There were differences. The New Orleans streetcars are dark green, whereas the Travellick was painted in brownish colors, I suppose in an attempt to make it appear woodish.
The New Orleans streetcars go in a forward motion, with limited sway side to side. The Travellick always seemed to sway side to side as much as it went forward, giving one the idea the destination would never be reached.
The groans and metal slapping were of much fewer decibels on the New Orleans streetcars than the Travellick. There was always serious doubt a breakdown would occur every 25 feet.
Those were the circumstances when we came aboard the Travellick as willing participants in a ride of a lifetime.
The beginning was uneventful. As we got to the outer reaches of our community, incidentally going past the previously described high school which we deemed as the last outpost of civilization, we plunged into total darkness. The streetcar had bounded away from its parallel run with the streets and street lights.
I looked around at my classmates. They, like me, had never ridden this streetcar into such a desolation. Their fourteen-year old eyes bugged out, and they began to huddle together more, abandoning the liberal scattering at the beginning.
This was the age that girls began to notice boys as boys, not as objects to be overlooked. I‘d had my eye on a couple for some time, for different reasons. One for the possibility of romantic involvement, although romantic at our age was never mentioned. The other girl was capable of beating up any boy in the class. How we became friends, I don’t know, but with everyone recognizing that fact, no boy ever challenged me, because he didn’t want to go home with a black eye, maybe even two black eyes, and damage to all 206 bones he identified as belonging to him. The oddity about it was this girl was very sensitive. I saw that in her, and that might have been the path to our friendship.
Even she was uneasy with the dim lights inside the Travellick ending at the windows and doors, and said light casting weird shadows a few inches outside that compounded our anxiety. Actually that might have been fear.
The further the streetcar went, the more it seemed to attain a greater rhythmic sway, leading everyone to believe the power pole would become disengaged, the operator would have to go outside, and never come back.
The president of the class thought we should form a committee to nominate someone to go outside in case the operator disappeared. There was some discussion that as president of this prestigious class, she should go outside to retrieve the operator in such a case.
Fortunately the power pole never once deactivated, and we continued to sway toward our destination. The lights of the oncoming community began to brighten when we came closer. The president of the class counted personnel to make sure no one was unaccounted for, or maybe it was one of two chaperones. We failed to check on the chaperones during the tense moments, probably assuming they were grown-ups, and used to the peculiarities of such a trip, maybe even taking the whole circuit on a trial run, even in the eeriness of the night.
When we were deposited back in front of our school, we all agreed this was a trip we would never forget. I guess I never did.