Monday, December 4, 2006

And Did He Ever Return?

I see our old family friend Dick Wertheimer perched on a couch in my parents living room. There's a glass of scotch on the table in front of him and a 5-string banjo perched at a jaunty angle in his lap.

And he is singing:
Did he ever return?
No he never returned.
And his fate is still unlearned (poor old Charlie)
He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston
He's the man who never returned.
Charlie on the MTA was (and is) a standard at family and friends get-together dinners. When we were small, we all listened to Mr. Wertheimer sing and play the 1950's folks standards of his youth. As we grew, we joined in on the chorus. In recent years, we've hauled out guitars and hand-drums and played along.

The song dates from the middle of the last century. It was written for a political campaign in Boston to criticize an opponent for a subway fare increase.

Now, thanks to Governing's 13th Floor blog, I find that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority -- the MTBA -- has, in a rare instance of a municipal sense of humor, named its fare-card after the fictional Charlie.

The CharlieCard will prompt a smile of recognition from Bostonians who know their history and from fans of mid-fifties folk-music.

1 comment:

Nancy Willing said...

What a nice post.
I also grew up with a folk singer.
My oldest brother was in a hoot'n'nanny club in Brandywine HS in the early sixties.
He would play guitar and sing the old union songs, folk ballads, lots of Woody Guthrey and I learned them all at his knee, barely 4 years old!

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