Travel

Token Travelogue

...from Sullivan Square to Winchester -- by MBTA

Natalie Thomson

Having bus stops every few city blocks adds character (and characters) to local travel. The passengers and scenery are constantly changing and mixing on the varied neighborhood city routes.

Impulse was the motive for my recent decision to see where MBTA bus 134 would take me. Its name was "Medford, Winchester, North Woburn" and its route in life started at Wellington Station in the first named city. According to the posted schedule, I had a 40-minute wait until "takeoff." During that time, I met a few interesting fellow-waiters on the station platform.

One was a professor-look-alike, neatly bearded man wearing ear phones. He showed me his briefcase full of cassettes. They were NOT musical. They were books.....modern best sellers and familiar classics. He wasted no time while traveling.

My other companion on the station platform was a smartly dressed woman who joined me on the bus when it arrived. We continued our conversation about her volunteer work at W.I.C.S. which trains Boston young people for jobs. She's been retired from her regular job for two years and loved living in Winchester, although she didn't like the tax rate. It was a brief but mutually good experience before she departed.

The bus ambled on into downtown Winchester and if I were to paint a picture of it, I'd use a brush that would hold the words Ponds - Shops with awnings - Railroad tracks on raised-rock-bridge - Churches overlooking Common-with-Benches-with-people - Parking (front bumper to curb) - Monuments - LARGE homes (some with pillars) - Lovely yards - Bushes - Flowers - Grass - Trees.

The driver pointed out a few houses and mentioned the sale price as a quarter-of-a-million-dollars. I didn't check his facts.

In stark contrast to the beauty of the Winchester residences, several Budweiser-Lite trucks were parked at a busy intersection. They seemed out of place. The drivers, who were on strike, held placards with complaints. The brief scene would have been incongruous fifty years ago in that awesome location.

I noticed other changes that had occurred in fifty years. There was now a huge rotary, planted with stunning green grass and direction signs for Route 128, Wilmington, Lowell, and Baldwin Green Common. A short spell up the road, the bus turned left at a one-time Victorian railroad depot...now a thriving bank.

Also charming, the neighboring town of Woburn had a picture-perfect rotary in its center, complete with flag, statue, flowers and benches. Just up the street was a rotunda gas station, c. 1930.

The lady sitting across the aisle announced to me that she was in her eighth decade. As we passed a Stop and Shop, she told me about the slaves that were smuggled to freedom through a tunnel from a home on (did she say?) Baldwin Hook. There was to be a Town Council meeting THAT NIGHT, she reported, regarding building a motel near that historic spot. "We don't need it," was her without-a-hint-of-doubt judgement.

When we arrived at the turn-around, John, the bus driver, chastised a female passenger, as she disembarked, for putting in the minimum 65-cent fare and then taking the $1.00 ride. Once she was out of sight, we were alone and he told me.

-he started working for the company when he was 47

so he'd have to work until he was 63 or 65 years old

-smaller companies were hoping to buy some of the lines

-there are 600-700 MBTA employees

-employees are randomly tested for alcohol and drug use

-the old Boston El employees were strictly Irish,

now there are a few employees who don't speak English

-according to him, some employees are not citizens

-"they" say that Winchester is just Medford, with trees

The way the passengers dressed and communicated with each other had changed two or three times during the ride, until now on the return trip, just beyond the Medford mall, their seats were crowded with bags full of shopping accomplishments. One lady, crocheting her latest project, hung a sign from her lap which announced her intent: "Finished articles for sale."

Back at Wellington Station I noticed a shop bursting with balloons and blossoms. They perfectly matched my mood of elation after this sixty-minute sojurn into suburbia.


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