Tag Archives: Chicago Transit Authority


“Glorious, Joyful, Sorrowful; Glorious, Joyful, Sorrowful; Glorious.” Sunday, Monday, Tuesday; Wednesday, Thursday, Friday; Saturday. The week of the rosary, as I remember it (and before some changes made in 2002): My liturgical week began on Sunday and ended on Saturday. Within each of the “mysteries” of the rosary is the subdivision of five, and…, and…, and . . . :

Glorious Mysteries: Resurrection, Ascension, Assumption…. Joyful Mysteries: Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity…. Sorrowful Mysteries: Agony, Scourging, Crowning, Carrying, Crucifixion–as some readers will remember them.

The complexity of the religion of the rosary I had to learn early on, as an up-and-coming Roman Catholic boy. And so it goes–or went.

All of this complexity came to mind recently as I tried to organize the top drawer of my dresser: My Sock Drawer.

The drawer was a mess: things everywhere, in addition to matched and unmatched pairs of socks (a pair of socks; pairs of socks) and those lost in the jumble and tumble, without a “mate.”

As I began to try to bring order to the chaos, I noted my small pile of keys and key rings in the left-front corner. Unknown keys for unknown locks. The keys are just “there.” Receipts. And more receipts, where I neatly stack them in the right-front corner: gasoline, Walgreen’s drugs, Target, Wal-Mart, miscellaneous.

Whistles, some non-USA-In-God-We-Trust coins thrown in the back left corner; an assortment of various business cards: clinic physicians, library; Kermit Weeks, “Fantasy of Flight: An Attraction of a Higher Plane” (closed for now); “Honorary Consul of the Slovak Republic–Florida” (!); lawyers’ cards. That’s the place where I keep them.

I found under the socks–after I emptied out the drawer–a package of postcards: 37 1-cent and 15 2-cent (a total of 67 cents. Easy math). I probably bought these at a garage sale. 

Handkerchiefs, in the left corner, were overlaying the keys. Monogramed, old-white, linen, camouflage. Those extras, ready for a right-rear pocket of slacks or jeans or wash pants. (“A gentleman always carries a handkerchief,” I was taught. [Somewhere, stapled or pasted in one of my old journals, is one such handkerchief, neatly folded, pressed between the pages, with stains of mascara. A handkerchief used by the first co-ed ever who was brought to tears, in my college office, “way-back-when-in-the-day.” I cannot remember what made her cry. I cannot remember the reason for her tears. I am sure it had nothing to do with me.])

And, finally, the rosary I found, in the left-back corner.

rosary in crystalRosary Found, with Crystal Beads

Crystal beads, sterling cross and medal. My mom’s rosary that I’ve had for some five years since her passing on. Now I have cleaned it and polished it. And there it rests.

Still, not the rosary itself but the “links” which came out of this rosary-discovery brought more memories: recalling catechism classes, using the rosary with all its intricacies of prayer methods, and having sore knees in chapel during rosary-recitation time.

However, one anecdote figures prominently above all others I associate with the rosary. No, not prayer-beaded mantras, like “pray for us sinners” or “blessed be the fruit of thy womb.” (Explain that one to a first-grade boy!) But, rather, it is hearing Sister Mary Philip, RSM, telling me one morning to see her after lunch. “I need you to see my sister.”

I was to become a mule, a runner (“Slang: a person paid to carry or transport contraband, especially drugs, for a smuggler.”).

Somehow, for some reason unknown to me, Sister Mary (always add the “Mary” out of respect) Philip, RSM, singled me out from my other 8th grade classmates to do “The Deed.” I was a purveyor of goods, the middleman. My reward (now, not in some afterlife) was delight and jubilation. I would miss an afternoon of classwork. Did nothing of note happen after lunch? History? Art? Music? Reading? Ah, that’s it: Silent reading. I could run errands during Silent Reading, for I was a good reader. I could miss school.

Approaching her desk, I was told to get my coat. She gave me a piece of paper with some directions, a small change purse, and, as she adjusted her Religious-Sister-of-Mercy habit, told me to be on my way. “Godspeed,” or something like that.

sisters-of-mercySister of Mercy, RSM

I had a duty; I was on a mission: to conduct an errand, leaving and returning by the end of the school day. Off I went . . . with no food or snack, no backpack, just directions and a change purse with money for the Chicago transit system, the CTA.

There I was, making my way then to the “L,” exiting at the 47th Street stop (a few stops before Sox Park-Comiskey Park).

47thSign47th Street “L” Sign

From the “L” platform, I went down the stairs to the ticket booth/fare collector’s station.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFare Collector Booth from Chicago “L”.org

There sat Sister Mary Philip’s sister. Only for the first time, I told her I was there for the package. She gave me a little paper bag, and a candy bar. With the package and CTA transfer in hand, I was on my way back to my school.

Often I made the trip, sometimes twice a month, receiving the goods: hand-assembled homemade rosaries. Colored beads, black beads, crystal beads; large and small silver crucifixes–all carefully wrapped, such beautiful work, as my 8th grade teacher would show me at my return.

I walked back to my desk, my classmates wondering where I had been.

“My Life with the Rosary” is certainly interesting for me, with so many memories of a time when…. I doubt any others can relate such a story (except, perhaps, those who followed after me in Sister Mary Philip’s classes chosen to do “The Deed”).

What I learned from all this is what a teacher’s pet I really was. How responsible I must have been considered–or, at least, appeared to be. I will not even mention here “child labor,” liability insurance, accountability, and other such topics. What did I know then? What if something happened on my trips? Nevertheless, I do know it was all a pretty good deal for me.

I was able to engage in one of my favorite pastimes: riding the Chicago “L.” So, in a way, I was getting paid to have fun.

oh-the-places-youll-go novelreaction.comOh, The Places I Have Been

Never did I realize how true for me. All because of the Holy Rosary.

How Glorious and Joyful it all was!

© James F. O’Neil 2015



By: James F. O’Neil

“Riding the Subway as Therapy”– Jared Keller (

On a recent trip to Minnesota, I rode the tram in the Minneapolis airport.  Carry-on bag with me, I stepped onto the tramcar, moved away from the doors which were about to close (as I was warned), and sat down to the right in a senior seat.  I had a perfect front view of the tracks, and a view of how I was going to travel to Concourse C.


In a moment-flash-to-the-past, a recurring moment, I was transported to Chicago, the Chicago L, the Englewood Line, then called The “A” Train.


(The CTA ‘L’ is sometimes written as “L” or “el,” short for “elevated.)  My little brother and I were travelers of the CTA rails.  My small companion, five years younger, and I went for L rides, for something to do.  What a cheap date!  When we rode the transit system, from bus to L, the fares were 12¢, and then rose to 20¢ in the late ‘50s.  (In 1957, the base fare was raised to 25¢.)

Our route was the walk from 67th and Marshfield, to the bus on Ashland, then north to 63rd, transfer to 63rd to Loomis, where the Englewood Line ended/began. 

 Tom and I--Forever Bound

63rd and Loomis

Through the station and up the stairs we went.  (See the 1995 romantic comedy film While You Were Sleeping with Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman for a view of fare-collecting and L train stations.)  Almost running to the front of the waiting “train,” the two of us pushed into the first car, sitting in the front across from the motorman.  We’d share turns on the single seat by the front window. 

As the train went underground, becoming the subway under the Chicago Loop and farther north, the journey under the city thrilled us both–and a greater thrill when the motorman opened his door, propping it open with a foot or leg, allowing us front-row seats to the controls of the machine.  We drove with him.  We were in command. 

Lights and rails and signals raced by; then we slowed for each underground platform stop.  As we came to daylight, we saw and felt the climb up the rails to over two stories above the city.  We were always able to look down at porches and cars and people, or look into third-story windows.

From 63rd and Loomis to the end of the line at Howard Street, we delighted.  Then everyone off, down the stairs to the exit to the street.  We would walk around, finding our favorite stop for a Coke, then looking in the showroom window of the Mercedes-Benz dealer on Howard and State Street.  In the showroom, we walked around, transfixed–really–looking at the new gull-wing Mercedes-Benz,


1955_Mercedes-Benz_300SL_Gullwing_Coupe_34Pic of that Mercedes in 1955

Then we’d make our way back home, looking forward to the ride, but somewhat let down, of course, for the trip was over.  But at the same time, what a trip, nearly from one of the city to the other.

As we grew older, the trips became less frequent.  Yet like Holden Caulfield protecting his sister Phoebe (in Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye), I was my brother’s savior on one unforgettable L ride. 

We were traveling underground.  I was in the single seat (my turn…), facing the motorman compartment, but able to turn face-front.  My brother was in the first double seat, next to the window, looking forward and left.  Both of us thought nothing of the old man who came from a crowded platform and made his way to sit down with us in the empty place.  Next to my brother.  Small talk (as I look back), about our ride and us. 

From the corner of my eye, I saw the man move his hand slowly from on his left leg towards my brother’s little right leg covered by brown corduroys.  I mean, this guy was some kind of pervert and all…  Honest to God!  And I got excited and all.  And nervous.  I mean, what was I supposed to do?  I’m not kidding.  I kept worrying, in slow motion and all, about what the pervert was going to do–and all.

I looked him in the eye: “Don’t touch my brother or I’ll kill you, I swear to God I will!”  He stood up and moved.  There I was, sliding away from the window, sitting down next to the little guy.  There I was, the catcher in the rye and all.  I caught him before he was swept over the cliff.  I saved him and all.  I swore then and there that I would NEVER let harm come to him–and all.

 * * *

From Wikipedia: The Chicago rapid-transit system is officially nicknamed the ‘L’.  This name for the CTA rail system applies to the whole system: its elevated, subway, at-grade, and open-cut segments.  The use of the nickname dates from the earliest days of the elevated railroads.  Newspapers of the late 1880s referred to proposed elevated railroads in Chicago as ‘”L” roads.  The first route to be constructed, the Chicago and South Side Rapid Transit Railroad gained the nickname “Alley Elevated,” or “Alley L” during its planning and construction, a term that was widely used by 1893, less than a year after the line opened.

In discussing various stylings of “Loop” and “L” in Destination Loop: The Story of Rapid Transit Railroading in and around Chicago (1982), author Brian J. Cudahy quotes a passage from The Neon Wilderness (1949) by Chicago author Nelson Algren: “beneath the curved steel of the El, beneath the endless ties.”  Cudahy then comments, “Note that in the quotation above … it says ‘El’ to mean ‘elevated rapid transit railroad.’  We trust that this usage can be ascribed to a publisher’s editor in New York or some other east coast city; in Chicago, the same expression is routinely rendered ‘L.'” The Chicago Tribune style guide also uses ‘L.’

As used by CTA, the name is rendered as the capital letter ‘L’, in quotation marks.  “L” (with double quotation marks) was often used by CTA predecessors such as the Chicago Rapid Transit Company; however, the CTA uses single quotation marks (‘) on some printed materials and signs rather than double.  In Chicago, the term subway is only applied to the sections of the ‘L’ network that are actually underground and is not applied to the entire system as a whole, as in New York City where both the elevated and underground portions are called the subway.


Note: The Website is found as Chicago “L”.org

© James F. O’Neil  2013

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