The Trolley Ride is a Nightmare. Natalie McKenna

A Foot Saga and a Brave Dad

We rode the trolley from our stop on Silver Spring Street in Providence’s North End to the terminal  downtown. On one journey, when we reached the terminal, the trolley driver opened the doors to let the passengers off. When we alit, my brother Jim went first followed by my father and then me. My father turned to help me down (he was always the gentleman). As he did, the trolley driver closed the door on my foot!

We started to yell and bang on the window where a man was sitting but did not seem to grasp the situation. The trolley started to move, and the terror I saw in my father’s face was something I never want to see again. The man who was in the seat before the doorway was looking out the window and, finally, after my father had been running, holding me up, figured out what was going on and yelled to the driver to stop! He did and opened the doors.

Natalie with Her Dad

My foot was released, and my father was almost in tears. As the driver came out of the trolley, my father’s Irish got the better of him and he ran over to the driver and, with his fists clenched and speaking between closed teeth, said, “I oughta bust you right in the mouth!”

I grabbed my Pop and said, “No Papa, please don’t hit him!” He turned to me and away from the driver and pulled my brother and I into the comfort station; a place you could go to wait for your trolley in warmth and comfort (thus the name, I imagine).

There, in a little cubby hole no bigger than a phone booth, the starter had an office where he kept track of the in-and-out times of the trolleys. My Pop knew him, and he went over to let him know what happened and to see to it that the driver be reprimanded (not so politely).

It wasn’t until  years later that I realized that the terror on my father’s face was of the thoughts going on in his mind, every split second, knowing that he could not possibly run with me as fast as that trolley.

By | 2018-10-12T14:07:10+00:00 November 15th, 2018|Guest Author, Stories of the 1940's and 1950's|15 Comments


  1. Peter Voccio JR. November 15, 2018 at 2:04 pm - Reply

    Frightening for sure. Hats off to dad for saving the day and speaking his mind. “All s well that ends well” A lovely bride.

    • Ed November 15, 2018 at 2:27 pm - Reply

      Natalie, a bundle of energy and excitement, will love your comments, Peter

  2. Cheryl Petrarca November 15, 2018 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    Mom, I’ve always loved your stories. It connects me to the past and gives me a little more insight as to what a great man Grandpa was. I remember so little about him. It would have been wonderful to have known him as an adult. As I recall…..This wasn’t the first time he saved your life! You’ll have to share the other story soon. Love, Cheryl

    • Ed November 15, 2018 at 5:47 pm - Reply

      Yes, Cheryl. I wish I knew him. I’d love to hear the ‘other’ story.

  3. Peter Voccio JR November 15, 2018 at 5:36 pm - Reply

    Ed, She deserves! A class one trooper!

    • Ed November 15, 2018 at 5:48 pm - Reply


    • Natalie L McKenna November 15, 2018 at 7:17 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much, Peter. I am truly blessed and have been all of my life.

  4. Natalie L McKenna November 15, 2018 at 7:06 pm - Reply

    Thanks Ed for sharing my story and to all, for the wonderful comments. I have so many wonderful memories of my papa and the lessons my brothers, Bill, Jim, and Jack and I learned from him. He was also a great one for sayings such as. “Never send a boy on a man’s errand”, “Never tell a lie. You can trust a thief, but even a thief cannot trust a liar”, “You’re as bright as a dark cellar”, etc., etc.
    Thanks again to all!

    • Ed November 15, 2018 at 7:22 pm - Reply

      Thank YOU, Natalie. It’s a great story. That’s why the comments. You have a number of “hits” on Facebook where the story was shared.
      I feel (and have seen) your energy, Natalie. I think you need to get a motorcycle.

  5. Michele McGurrin November 15, 2018 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    Fathers are the warriors and want us to be safe! He is your hero! Thanks for the story !!!

    • Natalie L McKenna November 16, 2018 at 6:10 pm - Reply

      Thanks for reading it. Glad that you enjoyed it.

  6. Joe Kernan November 19, 2018 at 7:02 pm - Reply

    Loved the story. Those old trolleys were fraught with danger and boys loved them for the dare-devil stunts they provided, like jumping onto the rear “bumper” and pulling the cord down from the overhead wire to kill the motor and try to get away before the driver recognized you.
    There was also a valve handle that was used to sand the rails when they were slippery. We used to hold it open at each stop to see how much sand were could mound up on the rail at each stop, at least until the driver saw you and you were off and running again. Then the new “Presidential” trolleys replaced the old wood ones beginning in the depression. By the early 1950s, of which I speak, the old trolleys were used on excursion routes to beaches and parks. Now the Presidentials have been reduced to occasional substitutes in cities that still have them. Thanks for the memories. (Yes, I did sand some tracks in my time but I never stopped a trolley)

    • Ed November 19, 2018 at 7:46 pm - Reply

      Great and beautifully described memories, Joe. Natalie will be pleased as am I. Thank you.

  7. Natalie L McKenna December 10, 2018 at 4:25 am - Reply

    Thank you, Joe. It was always a wonderment to me when, after coming to the end of the line, how the driver removed the pole from the front of the trolley to the back and to change the direction. The front and back of the trolley had controls for stopping and going and the seat backs could be reversed. Such a great time to be growing up in the world!

    • Ed December 10, 2018 at 12:03 pm - Reply

      I too remember that, Natalie. In fact, some of the ‘adventurous’ boys in my neighborhood would disengage the pole tethered to the line and stop the trolley. Not me …nooo…

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