Stories About Travel

Updated 1/8/99

     Baggage Smashing  ( 1/99)

     I'm A Big Girl Now, I Flew Alone  (1/99)

More Travel Tips and Advice

Go to topics on other subjects.

Baggage Smashing

[Late 1998 -- Someone wrote in an internet travel forum that someone else crushed her soft sided carry-on up in the overhead bin and broke the bottle of expensive perfume that then leaked into and damaged her camera.]

"Baggage Smashing", by Herbert Birsall

(Text and pictures published in Good Old Days magazine (Tower Press, Seabrook NH) Feb. 1972, pp 5.)

That is an odd word, isn't it, practically unknown today, but in common use years ago. It refers mostly to the old fashioned [steamer, steamship] trunk, that container in which one could, by careful packing, hold as much as 150 pounds. The luggage of today was then unknown; most travellers used trunks, and their personal baggage [read: carry-on's] was small and scanty.

Of course, times were entirely different; people as a rule arranged their vacations, of one to two weeks' duration, so that they stayed in one place. Therefore the trunk supplied about all their needs for that period. Clothes, books for light reading, and a myriad of other odd things could be packed away, bulky articles in the bottom half, then a tray in the upper section taking care of smaller items. The container being so strong, anything therein was pretty sure to arrive safely. The only trunk trouble took place when I was a small boy, and one could not really blame it on the trunk either.

At Bangall, many years ago, one of my relatives had 200 hives of bees. Most of the honey went to fancy clubs in New York City. One time a young lady was visiting on this farm and my grandfather said, "Why don't you take some of this delicious honey home with you. You can have all you want."

Of course, this appealed to this person and when the trunk was finally packed, a lot of honey, still in the comb, was placed on top. It was thought to be in a secure and leakproof package, that is what was thought to be the case, but, alas, in some way leaks developed, and on arrival, the whole [trunk] contents were contaminated by this sweet mixture. What a mess, so much so it was talked about for years.

The trunk served its purpose very well. At that time the railroads had a different attitude towards passengers. They wanted them to ride their trains and did all they could to promote good will. Here's how they handled the trunk situation.

All the traveller had to do in the first place was to get his trunk to the station. That was easy then as there were any number of small "expresses", wagons with driver who looked for this business. Then a ticket was bought to the proper destination. This ticket was presented at what was called the "Baggage Room", a place where trunks were handled. The man in charge looked at your ticket, then fastened a metal marker with a number on it to your baggage. He gave you a duplicate, asked what train you expected to take, and that's all you had to do.

Every train had a baggage car attached, sometimes part of the smoker [smoking section coach], and automatically your trunk was put on that was to be deposited at the same station your ticket called for. On arrival you simply sought out the local station master. He soon located the trunk with the same number on it as yours, and that was all there was to it, and no extra charge of tipping. One wonders how they did it. The only explanation I can think of is, people then took pride in their work and did it, a sad commentary on the state of affairs of today.

Modern people have no notion as to the proper way to handle a trunk. Big and heavy, it was almost impossible to lift one of these pieces of baggage, but it was simple if you knew how. The first principle was never try and lift the whole thing. As a rule, one end could be elevated so it balanced on the side of the other end, then the whole thing could be "walked" by tipping slightly to one side, then the other side. In this way it was simply very easy to move it around at will. Should you want to load it in a wagon, one end was leaned against the vehicle; then the other end was raised up, this being possible as one end had been placed as stated so one had to lift half the weight.

But to get to the baggage smashing. Sometimes trunks were placed on trucks and very high up. The only way was to let them fall out and hope for the best, any other method was too dangerous.

Many years ago my father took a position near Buffalo, N.Y. operating a small railroad station on a small branch line. In some way this station was built in such a fashion that all trunks were unloaded on a floor higher than where they had to be when delivered. A long and steep stairway connected the two floors. About the only known way to take a trunk downstairs is to get in front and sort of ease it down, a difficult and dangerous operation. And here was my father with dozens of trucks coming in every day.

This is how he solved the problem. He put each trunk at the top of these stairs and gave it a push. Gravity took care of the rest. Perhaps such situations gave rise to the station masters being sometimes called "baggage smashers".

[Ed. note:  Did they ever "lose" luggage in those days?]

This article only (c) Copyright 1972, Tower Press, Inc., P.O. Box 428, Seabrook, NH

I'm A Big Boy Now, I Flew Alone

[Continually in the Hot Talk forum of readers posted experiences of their children traveling alone and not getting adequate supervision and treatment by airline employees.]

I took my first subway ride by myself when I was nine. I felt proud of myself and within in a few months was riding alone on a regular basis. I suppose I could have bought airplane tickets and flown anywhere I wanted by myself too, except plane rides were expensive and my allowance wasn't that great.

Today's subway riding kid needs protection -- from muggers, and from hoodlums who go wilding in Central Park, etc. Today's airplane riding kid needs protection -- from oversized people who want to elbow their way into his seat, and hoodlums who snatch baggage and tickets, and "grownups" who slam their seat back and knock the tray of food into his lap. Ideally the airline agents should just watch the kid from a medium distance, doing something only if the kid seemed to get into trouble.

Buying an airline ticket and taking a flight is not that much more complicated than going to a movie at a multi-screen cinemaplex.

So long as the kid and also the two people in front and the two people behind in the counter line and in the jetway line are well behaved, and the people sitting on each side of him are well behaved, the kid should not have any problem.

When I was ten or eleven I rode the subway alone downtown to buy a Mattel toy pistol that was the same size and color (chrome plated) as a real six shooter. I was playing with it on the subway ride home. Today's public needs protection -- from people like me.

Return to top of page

Go to Travel Tips index

Go to table of contents

Contact us

All parts (c) copyright 1999, Allan W. Jayne, Jr. unless otherwise noted or other origin stated.

If you would like to contribute an idea for our web pages, please send us an e-mail. Sorry, but due to the volume of e-mail we cannot reply personally to all inquiries.