The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

29 April 2006

By the banks of the river Charles

One of the songs I dearly loved as a kid — still have a Capitol 45 of it, in fact — is the Kingston Trio's "M.T.A.", recorded in 1959, about, well, this:

Well, let me tell you of the story
Of a man named Charlie
On a tragic and fateful day
He put ten cents in his pocket,
Kissed his wife and family
Went to ride on the MTA

Chorus:
Well, did he ever return,
No he never returned
And his fate is still unlearned
He may ride forever
'neath the streets of Boston
He's the man who never returned.

Charlie handed in his dime
At the Kendall Square Station
And he changed for Jamaica Plain
When he got there the conductor told him,
"One more nickel."
Charlie couldn't get off of that train.

When I first set foot in Boston myself, in the summer of '72, I made a point of riding the MTA, which had since mutated into the MBTA and was referred to as "the T," and it cost quite a bit more than a dime, but that didn't shock me. What did shake me up was this: "M.T.A." was apparently poorly-received by The Powers That Be in the Hub, and according to the locals, not even the oldies station (WROR, then at 98.5) would ever play it. I wondered, though not out loud, what they might have thought about the Standells' "Dirty Water"; I certainly don't remember meeting any frustrated women, and I left Massachusetts in the spring of '74 somewhat perplexed by the matter.

Apparently the T isn't perturbed by Charlie these days; they're offering prepaid "CharlieCards" and monthly "CharlieTickets" which apparently save a nickel, adjusted for inflation, per trip.

(This was actually suggested by Jay Tea, though he was working a different angle entirely. Then again, he lives in New England.)

Posted at 8:06 PM to Tongue and Groove


"One of the songs I dearly loved as a kid [...]is the Kingston Trio's "M.T.A.""

Strangely enough - me too.

Posted by: belhoste at 11:39 AM on 1 May 2006