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A Trolley at Christmas

Updated on June 5, 2015

Chapman & Hall, 186, Strand

HTML formatting and additional editing by Jose Menendez. Many thanks to David Widger for scanning the illustrations from his copy of the 1843 first edition.
HTML formatting and additional editing by Jose Menendez. Many thanks to David Widger for scanning the illustrations from his copy of the 1843 first edition. | Source

How I First Met Charles Dickens

My dad told me the story of A Christmas Carol when I was about six years old (1954). My dad was a great storyteller. We were on the trolley in Pittsburgh. My dad was wearing his khakis and military shoes from when he was stationed in the Pacific during WWII --- nine years before.

"Once upon a time, a man always said, 'Bah, humbug' when anybody wished him a 'Merry Christmas'. This man hated Christmas. He just kept saying, "Bah, Humbug!"

"One Christmas Eve he was getting ready to go to bed. He was sitting in front of the fire on the second floor. All of a sudden, he heard chains clinking up the staircase. He was the only one in the house. He lived alone on the second floor.

"There was even the sound of a train on the steps. He was really scared. Then, his buddy came walking through the door. His buddy had a chain around his waist, and a bunch of cashboxes and locks were attached to it.

"His buddy was already dead for seven years . . . "

Old Trolley, All Cleaned Up

These old trolleys didn't look this neat and spiffy inside back when my dad first told me about Ebenezer Scrooge. This is a real old trolley, but it would not have looked like this when it was running routes.
These old trolleys didn't look this neat and spiffy inside back when my dad first told me about Ebenezer Scrooge. This is a real old trolley, but it would not have looked like this when it was running routes.

I Thought Ebenezer Scrooge Was a Personal Acquaintance

My dad told me a greatly simplified version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol on the trolley that night. He didn't have the book with him. He also stripped out everything but the essentials, to make it more interesting to a little kid. We were on the trolley, and he would soon be dropping me off at my mom and stepdad's house. (My stepdad was also a veteran of World War II.)

But, I never forgot that story my dad told me on the trolley. I didn't find out until many years later that it was a "real" fictional and classic story. I'd thought my dad was telling me something that really happened to somebody he knew.

A Haunted Play

One December in 1990, I was on my way to see a local stage production of Dicken's A Christmas Carol.

On my way to that production, I found out my dad already passed away. He was only sixty three years old. I did not make it to that stage production of A Christmas Carol.

Five months later, my youngest son was born. He and I have had a tradition of reading A Christmas Carol in its entirety each December. We read one "Stave" each week in December. Dickens calls the chapters "Staves" in A Christmas Carol .

Pittsburgh Streamlined Trolleys

Pittsburgh Streamlined Trolleys   (PA)  (Images  of  Rail)
Pittsburgh Streamlined Trolleys (PA) (Images of Rail)

This book does not cover the exact year when my dad told me about Scrooge. Still, it looks good, with lots of pictures.


Dickens Without Cliches

Maybe some folks dismiss Dickens' A Christmas Carol as an old, shopworn tale.

In chapter twenty three, of Cleo Coyle's Holiday Grind: A Coffeehouse Mystery for Christmas, Clare Cosi says, "No, I've never actually read the Dickens story. But everyone knows about Scrooge, right? The terrible misanthrope who hated Christmas?"

For those of us who love it, read it and revel in its lyricism, language, and humor --- exactly as Dickens wrote it --- that's only a beginning glimpse. TV and movie productions rarely get close.

I know a very intelligent psychologist, playwright and expert Shakespearean who says that television, stage and movie enactments of A Christmas Carol are "plastic and insipid".

Illustrated London News' Drawing of Victoria and Albert Family With Christmas Tree From Germany | Source

It was soon after A Christmas Carol that Prince Albert brought that Christmas tree from Germany with him. There was a sketch (right) in the Illustrated London News of Victoria and Albert with the kids, standing around the Christmas tree.

But, at the time, Prince Albert thought of the tree as a German import, alien to England. It was not meant to be for the general public. The article below, "Fathering Christmas: Charles Dickens and the (Re)Birth of Christmas" explains how the tree --- and other tokens of Christmas --- became normalized due to the influence of Charles Dickens.

A Brief Excerpt from Fathering Christmas

Christmas, with its apparently timeless customs and traditions, often seems to have been around forever. However, as late as the 1820s, the writer Leigh Hunt labeled it an event “scarcely worth mention,” (from Pimlott, J.A.R., The Englishman's Christmas), and it was widely believed that the holiday, both in England and throughout Europe and North America, was destined to die out.

That was when Charles Dickens was about eight years old. Perhaps Dickens had heard mention of this "destiny?"

Scrooge Loses an Argument with his Nephew

"What else can I be," returned the uncle, "when I live in such a world of fools as this? Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas! What's Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in 'em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will," said Scrooge indignantly, "every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!"

"Uncle!" pleaded the nephew.

"Nephew!" returned the uncle, sternly, "keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine."

"Keep it!" repeated Scrooge's nephew. "But you don't keep it."

"Let me leave it alone, then," said Scrooge. "Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!"

"There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say," returned the nephew. "Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -- apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that -- as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!"


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    • Huntgoddess profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Thanks, Alicia, for the compliment, and for stopping by to read.

      Yes, I do highly recommend reading the original as Dickens wrote it. It is his special Christmas gift to the future.

      On the other hand, the Alastair Sim version is also a classic. It's probably one of the best of all the screen versions, I think.

      I had the great honor and privilege of attending a reading of A Christmas Carol put on by local actors last Christmas.

      They usually perform Shakespeare's plays, but they also have some Dickens stories, as Dickens himself used to read his books at public performances in London. They call it the Dickens Dramatic Reading Society, to distinguish from the usual Shakespearean plays that they normally do.

      The Dickens readings don't leave anything out, as the movies and play usually do. (There's a bit of a question of whether or not Dickens himself sometimes skipped over parts of his books. Nobody seems to know for sure.)

      His readings were very popular. Audiences would wait in line for hours to get in. Some said that Dickens would use a hundred different "voices," during these readings of his own works.

      People in the audience would get very excited, and shout, scream --- sometimes even faint. Dickens actually had wanted to be an actor when he was young, but --- alas! -- had to settle for being the most popular novelist in England instead! LOL

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an interesting hub. I read "A Christmas Carol" many years ago, but since then my only connection with the story has been watching Alastair Sim as Scooge in the Christmas movie. It's high time that I read the story again!

    • Huntgoddess profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Dear Au fait, I am so sorry for taking so long to get back to you. The libraries where I go to use a computer are mostly at educational institutions. They have been closed for winter break. Bummer!

      Yes, I do agree, because A Christmas Carol has always been very meaningful to me.

      On the other hand, I'm not happy about what Christmas has become in our culture and society.

      Many thanks for your holiday good wishes. I wish the same for you and your family as well, of course.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      4 years ago from North Texas

      A Christmas Carol is a great classic. I think it was wonderful that your father brought that story alive for you. I think the lessons that some stories include are more meaningful when a person can relate. Hope you had a great Christmas and that the New Year will bring only happiness and peace.

    • Huntgoddess profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Thank you.

      I was not really allowed to see him when I was growing up :-(

      I do miss him, and wished I could have known him. ♥

      Thanks for your kindness.

    • ologsinquito profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      I'm sorry to hear of your Dad's passing. You must miss him, and it sounds like you had a nice relationship with your father.

    • Huntgoddess profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Thanks so much, travmaj.

      I so do appreciate your comments. Yes, I frequently wonder what Dickens would make of it.

      I think Ray Bradbury wrote a story about that. "The Man Who Loved Dickens," or something similar. Dickens visits the future, and travels by rocket ship.

      Ray Bradbury himself loved Dickens. As did Dostoyevsky and Chesterton. So, we're in good company.

      I'm so glad you guys had a huddle around the fire with your dad-- and Mr. Dickens. As you know, Dickens claims to be "in spirit at your elbow."

      Thanks for sharing that happy memory.

    • travmaj profile image


      5 years ago from australia

      This is a fascinating look at A Christmas Carol. I clearly recall my Dad reading it to us, many years ago, on the cold icy nights before Christmas. We huddled around the fire, sounds most Dickensian I know. But how we hated Scrooge and his Bah Humbug. I still enjoy the work of Dickens. However we view his work on film and tv his memory lives. I wonder what he would make of it all. Thanks for the memory.

    • Huntgoddess profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Yes, I do know about the trolley museum. There are several videos on YouTube of the trolleys and the museum, and the trolley rides.

      I will definitely write a review if or when I ever go back there. I'm not really sure if I can ever go, because I have serious PTSD regarding some things that happened there. I might not be able to deal with it.

      We'll see. I'm just really torn about it.

      Thanks for your comment. I love your Hub titles. Can't wait to start reading those. God bless, dear.

    • bearnmom profile image

      Laura L Scotty 

      6 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

      Huntgoddess, if you ever get back this way again, there is a trolley museum south of Pittsburgh in Washington, PA. I've been there because a friend was an old conductor and he took us on a tour of the grounds. They actually do trolley rides there. Hmmmm, there's an idea for a review.

    • Huntgoddess profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.


      ----- thanks so much. Yes, that IS funny, LOL, you've not read one of the greatest classics of your own great compatriot! :-)) That's the way it goes sometimes, lol.

      Not "bad", though. ---- But, I DO think you might be in for a treat if and when you get around to reading it. Check it out sometime. Not everybody has the same taste, I know. Some people don't like it.

      Thanks so much, Nell, for reading my Hub, and for your comments.



      --- Thanks so much for reading my Hub and for your comment. I do think the book is better.

      There are many things the movies leave out. Yes, I definitely recommend checking it out. You can use the free links on here. There are always "pay" versions also, of course.



      --- I'm so happy to hear from another old Pittsburgher who remembers the trolleys!! I was really hoping I would hear from some of you. Thanks so much for reading my Hub, and for commenting.

      I'm so glad you reminded me about the swaying. That was one detail I left out. Yes, so true, the trolley was swaying while he told me the story. That really brings it to life for me. Thanks, Bearnmom. I hope to write more about the old "burgh" soon.

    • bearnmom profile image

      Laura L Scotty 

      6 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

      Being from Pittsburgh around the same era, I was fascinated by your original story where your Dad told you the story on a Trolley. Having ridden the trolley for many of my early years, I can get the feel of the swaying of the trolley as your Dad wound his version of this classic. Good job in presenting this one.

    • torrilynn profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi Huntgoddess,

      I've never read the book before I've always watched the movie

      about it though. thanks for the information and I might have to check

      out this book one day.

      Voted up.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      Hi Huntgoddess, this was fascinating, I must admit that I have never read the actual book, how bad is that? lol! maybe we did it at school I really can't remember, so yes its well worth reading, I like the links too, I will go take a look, take care, nell


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