New Haven Commuters, 1961

Since prep school they told you the right schools, connections and career would bring the keys to the kingdom. They neglected to mention, however, that you’d be commuting to get there.

The art of avoiding conversation:

If you weren’t a smoker, you are now:

By Stamford, this is the most crowded car:

Let’s see: You had a highball at 11:30 and a three-martini lunch. Now a couple aperitifs, some wine later with dinner, and a snifter or two before five hours of sleep:

Hence the bags under the eyes:

Arrived at last. Up ahead, the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s called retirement, and it’s only 17 years away. — CC

Images from the LIFE archives.

35 Comments on "New Haven Commuters, 1961"

  1. These are great pictures. Thanks.

  2. Ah yes…drinking and smoking with absolutely zero guilt, and dressing well to do it…the good old days….

  3. Great post. The retirement 17 years away comment hit home, too.

  4. From what I can tell, the amount of drinking that went on during this time period must have been absolutely stunning. On the other hand, as Giuseppe says (or implies), this puritan age we’re in right now could do with some loosening up. Love the pictures. They remind me of the train scenes in North By Northwest.

  5. The heart – attack train.

  6. Great photos!! I wish this was still the scene in Grand Central

  7. I walk through Grand Central twice a day and I can attest to the fact that the travellers look nothing like this anymore. Too bad. Only 17 years, Turling?……lucky guy.

    Thanks for the post.

  8. If you took the daily commuter train from New Haven to Manhattan- likely as not – you were not a preppy. Preppies end of the line is and always has been Fairfield.

  9. Judging by their booze intake, these guy’s insides must’ve been well pickled. Not that that’s a bad thing.

  10. John, of course I’m banking on the old adage that the market regains 80% of its losses in the first year of recovery. If not, I may be a little further then the 17. After looking at these pictures again and thinking of my retirement, I definitely wish I were on that bar car.

  11. In 1985 I took the train from GC to Greenwhich, CT to visit a girl I dated briefly. The deal was, if you sat in the bar car the conducter never got to you for your ticket and you’d get a free ride. I’d buy a Foster’s Lager and without fail someone would buy me one before I got to my stop. Rewards of being a Park Ranger at the Statue of Liberty. I remember lots of buzzed commuters on Fridays and smoking was still allowed. It was a blast. Not the 1950s but still lots of fun.

  12. The first few images are inspiring, the ones where they’re wearing tan raincoats over dark suits. I wear a suit every day, and i’m considering purchasing a tan raincoat, I was inspired by Thom Browne’s Milan show. This image reconfirms a desire to go ahead with it, what do you think, tan raincoat, or dark topcoat? Great images, and thanks.

  13. Some great pictures. We do need to loosen up, when and why did it become such a bad thing to have a few drinks? MADD? The end of the 80’s and the excess?

  14. Around ’91 or ’92 I shadowed my dad to work in Chicago one day. He used to ride the train. Most people still wore suits to work then. I don’t remember if you could still smoke on the train (you certainly could nearly any place else, even by then), but I do remember somebody coming around to sell drinks on the ride home. I’ve sort of come around on the smoking issue. But I still don’t understand why our society decided to be get really casual about how we dress, yet super up-tight about how we unwind.

  15. These are stunning photographs. Thank you.

  16. Few people would commute daily from NYC to New Haven. New Haven is the name of the line on Metro North; it serviced CT commuters living in Fairfield Co., mostly, as a previous poster noted.

  17. I used to ride into Grand Central on the Danbury line and loved it. Reasonably comfortable, reasonably clean, most people were pretty well-behaved, and the bar car for when you needed to loosen up a bit. Pity it’s gone now.

  18. Vern Trotter | May 10, 2014 at 3:34 am |

    If you look closely in the bar car, you can just make out Tom Rath (Gregory Peck) in his gray flanney suit with a martini. He will get off at Old Greenwich, I believe.

    He is dreading telling his wfe, Betsy, (Jennifer Jones) about his illegitimate son, conceived in Italy during WW2. She will then make one of her horrible facial expressions.

  19. Vern Trotter | May 10, 2014 at 7:03 am |

    I did not realize that yesterday was the last day for the Bar Car. What a shame! Lifelong friends have been made in those cars. Metro North says they have been operating for at least 50 years but I say at least 75 years.

    New trains are being put on line and there is not enough room for the bar. Now you will have to buy drinks on the platform like on the LIRR at Penn Station. The cars were profitable also. It is enough to drive you to drink! As an alternative to that, I just ordered The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson to reread. Sold two million copies in about 1955.

  20. Bob Templeton | May 12, 2014 at 8:39 am |

    It is interesting to see the contrast between the Life pictures and the NYTimes pictures of today. Suits, topcoats and newspapers, versus casual attire, Barbour jackets and IPhones.

  21. Life expectancy for U.S. white males in 1960 was 66.5 years; in 2016 it was 78.7. Those smokes and drinks had a price.

  22. Evan Everhart | February 22, 2019 at 6:28 pm |

    I wish this same feeling of unity and community whatever you want to call it (solidarity?) were still current in our society, whatever fractured remnants of it remain. Call it what you will, Western Civilization, the American Dream…..It stirs a real sense of pathos and of loss, though perhaps its just so much pathetic retrospection, I think there is something there. The America that was, the society that was, and unapologetically so.

  23. I think you’re so choked up, Evan, that you’re having trouble being intelligible.

    Just a mild rib, brother. Please elaborate. Have been thinking along the lines that I think you’re going and drafted and abandoned an essay.

  24. So interesting to see these pictures. Lighting is so much better today.

  25. Funny — the trains were faster then than they are today.

  26. When did men stop wearing these hats like in ’61?

  27. Correction:
    Not all images prior to 19 Feb are visible. I’ll send you some screenshots do you can see what I see.

  28. This week, I have been unable view several blog posts’ photos on my Apple MacBook. It’s a problem on Safari, Firefox, and Chrome. I have AdBlock enable but it does not block Ivy Style’s ads. Any views or suggestions would be very welcome.

  29. Same issues with pictures here – it’s been 3 or 4 days. Never had problems before.

  30. Is everyone who’s having this problem outside the US?

  31. Isaac, choose function over form. Which will get the most use?

  32. Evan Everhart | February 25, 2019 at 10:24 am |

    Hi Christian,

    No worries! I have also been considering opining upon the subject at greater length, I do so mentally on the regular. I’ll expound upon the subject if you’d like.

    I hope all is well with you, and I have been enjoying having regular content again! Perhaps an article focusing on the high school expression and examples from the Era might be interesting, a photographic storyline or parallel display might underscore a reasonably informative and well researched but Spartan blurb.

    I would also suggest perhaps more My Kind of Clothes spotlight pieces. Those are Wonderful and I always really enjoy seeing the regional and sometimes what I at least perceive as familial or class variances within the style.

  33. Evan Everhart | February 25, 2019 at 10:43 am |

    @ Fred,

    I still wear my hats. I wear a hat every single day, I rarely leave the house without one. I think they’re civilized, and my Dad always wore one. They also help keep off the wretched Southern California Sun.

  34. All images back also for us Europeans – and what treats in fact we were missing: these pictures are wonderful, many thanks for sharing, and your writing always witty – thanks Christian.

  35. AndrewK247 | April 23, 2021 at 5:36 am |

    I worked in The Canyon (Chicago’s rough equivalent to Wall Street) from ’92 for a bit over 10 years. When I started at one of the biggest banks in Chicago, all males wore suits and you were required to wear your jacket when you went out to lunch. I remember one day the weather reached the 90’s and the Bank President granted special permission to be seen in public without a jacket. We were quite relieved and excited, haha. Of course, we all still had long sleeved dress shirts and ties on.

    Rules loosened up quite considerably over the next 10 years.

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