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The resting place for old street cars

DATE OF EVENT: Sunday, June 23, 1957

DATE PUBLISHED: Monday, June 24, 1957, in The Kansas City Times

Editor’s note: Kansas City’s electric streetcar line started running in 1890. At the system’s peak, 500 cars transported citizens. In 1957, the last streetcars were idled, leaving a transportation system to rely on buses and trolley buses. In 1959, the trolley buses finished their runs as well.

It was a gay and chummy occasion yesterday afternoon for the passengers who took the last streetcar ride and photographed one another all the way from Forty-eighth and Harrison streets to Waldo and back again.

What a delightful experience a streetcar ride can be when there’s a seat for everyone, no one is in a hurry, and an operator has not a thought in his mind except keeping his passengers happy.

If there should be melancholy days ahead for the Public Service company it can always look back upon and savor the memory of its finest hour –– the afternoon the last streetcar in Kansas City made its final run, and nothing but good cheer and fellowship prevailed.

No fares were collected. Public Service officials moved up and down the aisles swapping jocular comments with patrons. The operator (Kenneth B. Hood, 916 East Forty-eighth Street) lingered at the stops. Persons stood out in their yards to wave friendly greetings as the car moseyed along. There was a guide aboard to comment on the passing scene and offer advice on light readings and settings for the camera.

The car (No. 778), like all others of the PCC type, has 51 seats. As it charged grandly out of the Forty-eighth and Harrison division point there were perhaps 45 persons aboard. At the stops it picked up others. … All told, the number who enjoyed all or part of the journey was estimated at 65.

Across the street stood a solitary figure, disdainful of the rain which was beating down on his coat collar, and snapping pictures with a three-dimensional color camera. He was L.P. Cookingham, city manager, one of the better amateur photographers and a man with a deep and abiding love for a streetcar.

“Ah, how I hate to see them (the streetcars) disappear,” Cookingham sighed. “You know I was born at the side of a streetcar line in Chicago, and the sounds of those old cars are among the finest memories of my boyhood.”

Edward F. Bowman, 8500 East 19th Street, finally persuaded Mr. Cookingham to come in out of the rain. …

Just before the stop at Forty-third and Main, Mr. Bowman announced that for the benefit of those who might be taking notes, he would introduce the distinguished guests. …

D.B. Eyer, vice president and general manager of the Public Service company, was among those waiting at Sixty-third and Brookside, having driven to the point by private car.

Mr. Eyer spoke in a voice which was almost a whisper as he confided to us that the driver of the first bus which was replacing streetcar service to Waldo got a little confused and ended up in the lumberyard just off Wornall Road at Gregory Boulevard. This was at 12:35 o’clock yesterday morning. Fortunately, Mr. Eyer had been standing by to await the arrival of his first bus, and had got the man straightened out and headed back toward downtown.

There was a welcoming delegation at the Waldo station. The car turned around, and Mr. Cookingham took over the operator’s seat. … The city manager displayed a sure and steady hand at the controls. He eased the car back as far as Meyer Boulevard with professional skill before giving way to the regular operator. For this intrepid exploit he received another round of applause. …

Back at Forty-eighth and Harrison, the passengers stepped off reluctantly.

So now it’s all over, and a generation will grow up knowing nothing but buses. The Public Service company has a contract with a salvage company to take over many of the cars. A salvage company deals in — well, we may as well face it — it deals in salvage.

Should there be a city (perhaps a foreign city) interested in some used — but good, serviceable — streetcars, however, the Kansas City Public Service company will be most willing to negotiate.