In the mid-1950s, America fell in love with a television program about working class New Yorkers called The Honeymooners. Ex-vaudevillian Jackie Gleason starred as blustering Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Kramden; 50 years later, the actor and the character he portrayed continue to occupy a special place in the hearts of New Yorkers and the New York Transit Authority. In fact, a statue showing Kramden in uniform stands outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal (New York City’s largest bus station) and a major bus depot on Brooklyn’s Fifth Avenue is named in Jackie Gleason’s honor.
Today the New York Transit Museum held its 12th annual bus festival at the foot of Borough Hall, drawing bus aficionados from far and wide. And naturally, Gleason’s presence was felt. As they walked along the avenue of historic vehicles, visitors were serenaded by the series’ familiar, brassy theme song issuing from loudspeakers. One of the highlights of the day was watching people suddenly stop, smile in recognition and happily exclaim, “Hey, they’re playing the Honeymooners’ song!”
From the official festival announcement:
September 17, 2005, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Join us as we celebrate a century of motorized bus service in New York City at the New York Transit Museum’s 12th Annual Bus Festival. More than a dozen vintage Museum buses, dating from 1917 to the 1980s, support vehicles, and more recent examples from the MTA fleet of buses will be on display in Columbus Park. The star attraction of this year’s festival is “Betsy,” the Museum’s newly acquired closed-top, double-decker bus (no. 1263), originally operated by the Fifth Avenue Coach Company from 1931 to 1953. Throughout the day visitors to the Festival may enjoy guided tours of the fleet, live musical entertainment, hands-on children’s workshops, story-telling, and complimentary rides around historic Brooklyn Heights on a horse-drawn omnibus. And everyone can shop for unique bus-related gifts and transit memorabilia in the Transit Museum Store tent. This event is free and open to the public.
Vintage double-decker bus