BETTER LIVING THROUGH BRIBES!: GENERAL MOTORS' LOCK ON JOISEY
Public Service Coordinated Transport (PSCT) of New Jersey was the fourth-biggest transit system in the US. According to Ed Tennyson—a Virginia engineer, transportation consultant and former asstistant secretary of the Pennsylvania Dept. of Transportation—GM wangled its way in as PSCT's de facto planning department in 1936. It continued in the job till 1952.
These are the details, as given to Tennyson by Albert Creamer, special liaison between PSCT and New Jersey’s Public Utility Commission:
Every year, GM would come to New Jersey and set up PSCT’s transportation plan for the upcoming twelve months. Naturally, this involved getting rid of streetcars (except in Newark’s short subway), and putting in GM buses. Then Creamer would head back to Flint, Michigan, pick up a new Cadillac and drive it back to Newark to present to PSCT’s transit manager.
Public Service bought nothing but General Motors buses, with one exception. Over 1944-47, the company took delivery of 526 Ford buses, but only because GM diesels weren’t available because of the backlog created by the Second World War.
Silly! Bus exhaust can't hurt you! It just has to smell nice. Experts say so. Click for story (PDF).
Corporate welfare in Oklahoma. Click for story (PDF).
Grumpy New Yorkers. Click for story (PDF).
MADNESS IN VLADIVOSTOK
People go on long trips for all kinds of reasons: exploration, pilgrimage, adventure. Sometimes it's a drive for redemption or cleansing, as what compelled Cheryl Strayed to hike from Mexico to the Columbia River on the Pacific Crest Trail, then write her bestseller Wild about it. Whatever the motives, they have driven much of humanity over the millennia.
In 1919, a young radio operator named Jay Quinby set out from New York City on Ida, a beater, 40-year-old steamer. The decrepit coal-fired vessel passed through the Panama Canal and picked up and dropped off a variety of cargoes at ports around the Pacific.
Six years later, Norman Smith of Lexington Kentucky stepped aboard the SS Clearwater in New Orleans, bound for South America. Smith and his buddy John Pursley were looking for kicks and possibly enlightenment like the Manhattan native.
Quinby and Smith, both fascinated with anything that floats, ended up on opposite sides of the biggest con job of the twentieth century: the destruction and looting of North America's massive system of electric railways.
Jay Quinby trained as an electrical engineer. Engineers have the following reputation as writers: they suck. Was the New Yorker a lousy writer? You decide:
Having reached the age of discretion, if my four-score years so qualify me, I feel the urge to record some of the romances of my experience. Most of the enamoratas involved here have passed from the scene so that I need fear no repercussions from them. Regarding the others, my remarks will be discreetly guarded.
Enamoratas, Jay!? That word's not even in my Random House English Dictionary, which weighs in at ten kilos or something. Quinby was no doubt good at calculus and physics, but his writing style was sometimes so ponderous his autobiographical book sat on my shelf, mostly unread, for at least a decade. Then I finally plowed through it.
Tabarnaque, what a story! Not only did this guy experience an amazing string of adventures, when it comes to straight physical descriptions, Quinby was pretty articulate (this is what engineers get: X makes Y do this, which results in Z.)
Chapter four of Jay's self-published tome is called Madness at Vladivostok. Fantastic title, vastly better than the whole book's yawner name, Ida Was a Tramp (tramp steamer, get it?)
There's a lot more here about Quinby than Smith, for several reasons. First, Smith never wrote a book, to my knowledge. The second thing is that what the Kentuckian was up to in his home state and in Florida was morally and legally dodgy. He and his brother Leroy wanted it off the books. Sometimes though, a disaster will smoke out what happened.
Most important, Quinby was part of the world's analog electric transformation (digital came later.) He worked many years for Radio Corporation of America (RCA.) Like David Sarnoff, the Belorussian-born Jew who ran RCA, Quinby could say, “I was lucky that at an early age I hitched my wagon to the electron.”