Thursday, February 17, 2022

Rumble Seat

Thomas E. Pryor @1922 Yorkville


"I used to ride in my father's rumble seat," Dad said and sipped his beer. I sipped my coke. We sat on stools facing the grandfather clock in Loftus Tavern.

"What's a rumble seat?"

"It was a seat that hinged out of the back of the car, it felt like you were riding in mid air."

We mulled over our drinks and I thought, someday, I'm going to ride in a rumble seat.

One hot afternoon in the Old Timer's Tavern, I was laying on the floor watching the ceiling fan spin and I overheard my Uncle Mickey say to my father, "Bob, when we were young, I remember you driving us to Rockaway. Why don't you have a car?"

"Because I knew I was going to drink and I didn't want to hurt anybody."

The Pryor’s didn't have a car, and depended on the kindness of strangers and relatives. My Uncle George occasionally took us to beaches and lakes, my grandfather Rode took us to buy wool for my grandmother on Grand Street. I spent an inordinate amount of time in Checker cabs heading for Yankee Stadium and Madison Square Garden. That gave me access to the pull up seat on the floor of the cab. A seven ticket ride.

My mother's father, Pop Ryan, didn't have a car. In 1961 he bought his first one - a Falcon in mint condition. This made my grandmother very unhappy since my grandfather had a reputation for taking the laws of self-preservation lightly.
Pop put plastic over the seats and washed the car every Saturday in front of the house on York Avenue (He was the building's super). Nan wouldn't let Pop take me for the first few weeks because he had just gotten his first driver’s license by the skin of his teeth.

Week six, after relentless whining and begging, Nan finally let me go for a ride with Pop. I started off in the back seat but climbed into the front seat when we were out of sight from Nan. We turned left on 86th Street, and went straight over to 5th Avenue passing my favorites places: Loews Orpheum, Woolworth’s, the huge RKO, Horn and Hardart’s, Prexy's, Singer's, and many more.

We drove down Fifth Avenue pass the museums and mansions, I took it all in on my knees with my head out the window catching air in my mouth. At 72nd Street we turned into Central Park and veered right past Pilgrim Hill. Going north I waved at the boathouse doing 30 miles an hour.

At Cherry Hill, I said, "Pop, do 40!" He hit the accelerator, we did 40 uphill. Near the Engineer's Gate I saw a hawk swoop down and said, "Pop, 50!" The speedometer moved up. As we started down the hill pass the 102nd Street transverse, I yelled,"60, 60, 60!" Pop gave me a wicked smile and there we went. Pass the Harlem Meer at the north end of the park taking the curves at a breakneck speed with no one on the road but us. We rode up on the curb facing Cathedral Parkway and nearly hit a trash can. Pop backed down to 45, then 35, and we stayed there until we turned east at Columbus Circle heading back to Yorkville. Luckily, there was a spot on York Avenue in front of 1616. Pop parked, I jumped out, ran up the stoop, busted into the apartment screaming, "Nan, it was great! We did 60 miles an hour in Central Park!"

The next day, Pop sold the car to his son, my Uncle Lenny.
Pop & Nan Ryan Loftus in background