Saturday, September 5, 2009

ELO, Queen and the F express

In a time when ELO and Queen ruled the jukeboxes of our local Windsor Terrace and Kensington bars, we had the F-Express to Manhattan. It was our own European “Bullet Train”, and it stopped right here, at Church Avenue.

Now I was a pretty lucky kid you know. Back when all my friends were either getting mugged or beat up at Erasmus on Flatbush Avenue, I was going to the “High School of Art and Design” on Second Avenue and Fifty Seventh Street in Manhattan. Talk about culture shock for a boy from Brooklyn. A school where kids of all races just got along with each other and never had a fight. A school where some of my best friends turned out to be “gay” without me ever even knowing or even caring. A school that had to have the best-looking girls in NYC hands down. It was such a wonderful place that was so different from anything you could have ever imagined, including Ditmas JHS, where I had just graduated from earlier
that year.

The guys from the block just could not comprehend what I was telling them when I described the “Halloween” party there in October of 1975. Guys in drag, girls hardly dressed, and a walking condom squirting milk. Not to mention we actually "voted" not to have a prom. But then again what would you expect from the Alma Mater of Harvey Fierstein and Tony Bennett. We were just too cool. Oh, A&D, it was just the best school in the world, and much more fun than "Commuter College."

But back to the F-Express, the train I took every day to High School. The F-Express stopped at Church Avenue, 7th Avenue, and then Bergen Street. It was really a time when hardly anyone got on at Fort Hamilton Parkway or 15 Street Prospect Park. Maybe all the Moms were home and the Dads worked in Brooklyn, who knows. But bottom line, those stations were not very crowded back in the early 70’s. And I know because I was there every day if I missed the F-Express.

Next Stop Seventh Avenue, Methodist Hospital

Then there was Seventh Avenue. The “Park Slope Pioneers” just walking on to the F-Train with their New York Times. Why the hell would they all want to live in that “rat-hole” of a neighborhood for? A place where all the streets are on a slant and no one has a driveway? How many times this week did you get mugged? You can keep that joint, I’d rather stay here in Kensington. Imagine we actually had better schools than Park Slope in the 70’s.

Next Stop Bergen Street.

I remember the train used to barrel out of the 4th Avenue tunnel at speeds well over 55 mph. The F would pass the platform in less than 5 seconds. The local would look like a blur as we rocketed by it. Before you knew it you were passing Smith 9th street and going down the big curve. This is when I would be lucky enough to see the progress on the World Trade Center. Just a skeleton of a building getting higher every week. It was really history seeing that building go up on the way to High School every day. So sad what happened.

Forget Carroll, next stop Bergen Street.

Now the characters that got on at this stop, I don’t know. Just a bunch of tough guys either going to their construction site or maybe to my school to kick some “sensitive” artist's ass. All I can say is they all wore black leather jackets and did not look like "yuppies." Yeah, how ya doin, are you some kind of artist or something?

Next Stop Jay Street Boro Hall.

Ok, so that was it. Even though I still had over a dozen stops still ahead of me. But let me tell you, I was at Lexington Avenue and 53rd street from Church Avenue in about 45 minutes, no kidding.

So remember the F-Express and a time when ELO and Queen ruled the juke boxes in Kensington. A time when PS 179 was the "school" and PS 321 was not.

But hey, I bet you that Denny’s still has ELO and Queen on their jukebox. And how does that saying still go?
Just two dollars and a dream, just two dollars and a dream.

Ron Lopez

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Subway Historian said...

There's more to the old "F" express than most people know. The express track tunnels run beneath the Ft Ham Pkwy station. An unused tunnel branches off and runs under Ft Ham Pkwy to about 37 Street. It was originally planned to continue all the way to Bay Ridge and Staten Island. Construction stopped during the depression.

The tunnel structure was completed but no tracks or signals were installed. It's sealed off but you can see where it was when riding the "F" express. It's an empty space where the switch track would have been.

The storage tracks south of Church Avenue continue under McDonald only to about Cortelyou Road only. They were meant to be extended down to Foster Avenue where they would have connected with another never-built line to eastern Brooklyn where the old LIRR freight tracks are.

Ron Lopez said...

Thanks for the info, really cool hear about that tunnel going to 37th street. I was actually somewhat of a subway geek back in the 70's and actually used to record the entire ride from Church Avenue to Jay street on a cassette player I used to hide in my coat.

I would then listen to it late at night as a way to put me to sleep. Oh well, I guess it was better than taking drugs or sleeping pills.


Elliot James said...

I took the F more times from Ditmas to Coney or Manhattan than I care to remember. As curious as I was about some areas of Brooklyn, I never got off at Bergen or Carroll. In later years I took the D more frequently than the F. How much is the subway fare these days?

Subway Historian said...

FYI there are a few incomplete subway structures around the city. An entire second phase of subway constuction was planned but halted during the depression and WW2. Some projects were started. Most of the rumored remnants are in Queens and Manhattan. I say rumored because until somebody digs up these streets there's no way of really confirming them after 70 years.

In Queens an unfinished station is said to exist underneath Pitkin Ave at 76 Street. Another unfinished tunnel section is under Hillside Avenue in the 200 Street area.

Not much in Brooklyn as the Queens projects were deemed more important at the time. An unfinished BMT tunnel from the 59 Street station to Owl's Head Park was part of another planned link to S.I. You can still see evidence of the tunnel shaft in the park. The S.I. shaft is under the Verazzano toll plaza. The Nostrand Avenue IRT tunnel continues under Nostrand to the railroad bridge. It was planned to go all the way to Avenue U.