Friday, December 23, 2011

Ephemeral city: streetcar transfers

Found recently at an antique mall: Early-morning, holiday-season transfers from two Kansas City streetcar lines, dated December 25, 1927, and January 1, 1928.

The Prospect Avenue line served the city's east side along Prospect Avenue and 15th Street (now Truman Road). The Brooklyn-Sunset line connected the east side's blue-collar bungalows to the opulent mansions of the Country Club District, working a horseshoe-shaped route from Brooklyn Avenue to Ward Parkway. You could transfer from one line to the other at 15th and Grand.

To help imagine the Prohibition-era world of these transfers, two downtown scenes from these dates:

Christmas. High on the west-side bluffs overlooking the stockyards, a lone pine tree. Neighborhood schoolchildren have decorated it with stars, silver tinsel, electric lights of many colors. A band is playing carols. A few hundred celebrants. The tree, visible from afar in all directions.

New Year's. Revelers bundled against below-zero cold. Six inches of fresh, drifting snow. The Jazz Singer, first talking picture show, playing at the Globe, 13th and Walnut. Near the corner of 9th and Wyandotte; a basement cafe known as the Blue Goose. Federal agents escorting the Blue Goose proprietor and two employees up icy steps to street level. Busted; liquor on the premises.