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 the kingdom is in New Haven, Connecticut — 80 miles from Midtown Manhattan.

Neglecting the lost art of 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

21 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. Laguna Beach Trad | April 2, 2009 at 1:10 pm |

    Great find! Thanks for posting. Brings back memories of commuting on Metro-North from Greenwich to Manhattan twice a day for 3 or 4 years. I got off at Greenwich. My chums got off at Cos Cob, Riverside, and Stamford. I absolutely loved the bar car. (Would like to write a tribute to it someday). We drank large amounts–mainly beer, I’m afraid to report. Friday afternoons we staged drinking contests to see who could stay upright longest. My personal goal was two Foster’s tin cans. A bunch of old chaps would play cards, until one day someone complained and the commuter “gambling ring” was busted. There was also quite a bit of flirting going on, but as you know preppy women can be rather formidable. Still, all in good fun.

  14. 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?

  15. 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.

  16. These are stunning photographs. Thank you.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

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