When 91 year-old Thomas Merrick began working at the MTA in 1948, the subway fare was a nickel and the Dodgers played in Brooklyn. On Monday, the MTA held a ceremony at its headquarters to celebrate Merrick's 65-year career.
The festivities began with Merrick standing in a meeting room, surrounded by MTA officials as a citation from Governor Andrew Cuomo was read aloud: "The Empire State is proud to bestow official commendations on those who have served their fellow New Yorkers with dedication and excellence."
You have to be tough to work in the subway for more than six decades. And Merrick was tough: before signing on with the MTA, he fought his way through Italy and France as a howitzer gunner in World War II.
His first job, as a clerk for the BMT subway line, paid 90 cents an hour. But he called that "a good and decent wage at the time." He also said the subway was pretty gloomy when he started. "You had wooden platforms, you had wooden booths, you had dilapidated stations," he said, adding conditions had improved a lot since then. "You go into the stations now, they're clean, they're bright. They're more or less consumer friendly."
More or less.
Merrick, who never married, says he plans to spend his retirement cutting the grass and making repairs to his house in Saint Albans, Queens.