Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Yellow Cab Stories Mobile Alabama 1964 Plus Checker Cab Shuts Down
Click on the above link for some pictures.
I drove a Yellow Cab in Mobile,Alabama in the Fall of 1964 while waiting to go in the Peace Corps.
You had to take a test of your reaction time in stopping. The man in charge would take you out to one of the cabs(an old Checker cab)and give you a road test.
The way this would work was he had a device with a string attached to it that would fire a shot like a pistol shot(I think it even used a little gun)which would shoot some paint or powder on the street when he pulled the string. So he would tell you to ride along the street and stop when you heard the shot. So BANG! and then you stopped as fast as you could. He would then get out of the cab and measure the distance from where you stopped to the mark on the street made by his pistol shot. The little pistol like device was attached the front bumper or around the front tires.
So I passed this test and voila! I was a Yellow Cab driver.

I drove at night and was too young and dumb to realize how dangerous it was. I will tell some taxi stories from that time as I remember them.

#1: I got a call to go down to the docks in the railroad yards. This was at night and as I drove into the railroad yards down near the river it was pitch black. No lights at all except those from the two cab headlights.

I kept going trying to find the address and way they had given me over the radio. Finally my lights hit on some grey mountain of something. As I got closer I saw it was a large mountain of oyster shells shaped like a pyramid taller than a four story building and standing in front of it in my headlights was a tall blond headed slender man bleeding from head wounds. The blood covered his face and shirt. He was laughing. I got him in the cab and headed for the closest hospital.
Turns out he was a Swedish sea captain and he had been mugged.

When we got to the emergency room of the Mobile General hospital I stayed with him and they took him fairly quickly. He did not speak very much English. I stuck around to not only to see how he was but to see if I was going to get paid the cab fare. After they sewed him up they let me speak to him. He was not too badly hurt. He kept on laughing. I asked about the cab fare. He laughed and pointed at his jacket which was covered with blood. He motioned for me to hand it to him and then he motioned for me to look in the lining of the coat. While all this was going on the other patients waiting to be seen were watching me and this man.

I looked in the lining of the coat. Inside was a ten dollar bill soaked in blood. I reached in to pull it out. The other patients kept watching saying nothing. I wondered what they thought of all this. I pulled the bloody ten dollar bill out carefully with two fingers and gave him change.

As I remember I drove him back to his freighter and he had me come aboard and he gave me a drink of something. He was still laughing when I left.

#2. A red headed young man who had just gotten off work on a friday night and wanted to go to the local whore house. The deal with the whore house was the cab driver was given one third of whatever the customer spent.

So I drove him to a motel outside the city limits. I parked in front. He went off with one of the women. The madam told me to move my cab around back. We were outside of Mobile on old Highway 90. I went to move the cab but my foot slipped off the brake and it rolled down in a ditch. I went back inside to call the company since the cab was stuck down at the bottom of a hill. I called and asked for a tow truck and gave the dispatcher the address. He said something like "You are where?"
While I waited the young red headed guy decided to go again and then again. This was in 1964 so three times cost him 30.00. That meant I got ten dollars.
Another old time cab driver showed up and heard what had happened and told me he knew I had stuck the cab on purpose which was not true.
The tow truck eventually showed up and I drove the young man back to Mobile.

#3. I got a call to pick a man up at the Trailways bus station. He told me to just drive around for awhile. Finally he told me what he wanted. He told me we were going to drive out to a local orphanage and park nearby. Again this was taking place at night. The deal was his son was in that orphanage and we were going to wait and pick the boy up when he ran away.

So I parked the cab in a vacant lot several hundred yards from the orphanage and we waited in the dark.
Finally a young boy of about 12 years old appeared out of the dark. We took off and the man told me to drive around while they talked. They had not made up their minds for sure whether we were going to take the kid back to the orphanage after some time or whether he and the kid would take off for good.

The man told me to take them back to the bus station. When we got there he said to come back in an hour and if they were gone they weren't coming back and if they were there we would then take the kid back to the orphanage.
I went back after an hour. They were both gone.

#4. Late at night a Catholic Priest got in my cab when I was parked on a cab stand in front of the Battle House Hotel in Mobile. It was either a Sat. or Sunday night.
He was very very drunk. He was so drunk he was almost incoherent. He said he was really tired. He had been over across the bay in Fairhope or one of those small towns across Mobile Bay and he had been ministering to the sick and dying all day and night. The more he talked the more I saw he was wasted. He told me how sad the work he was doing was. He had been ministering to people all day and had gotten drunk and now he was telling me all his problems. Everybody needs somebody to talk to. Even a priest. I was hearing his confession.
He was worn out and tired of hearing other people's problems. It had finally gotten to him and he tried getting drunk and that made it worse. He talked of having to minister to dying and sick people constantly. I just listened and said nothing. I drove him to where he wanted to go. I let him out. He went off to bed.

Click on the link below for information about Checker Cabs.
Just read about Checker Cab shutting down.