Americas train systems are off the rails.
New York train commuters were told to be braced for the “Summer from Hell.” It was to be a summer of heat, humidity and horrible train service. After years of increasingly poor service, I was more than braced. Bad service on the Long Island Rail Road was the norm not the exception.
And don’t even get me started on NYC out-of-date subways.
Dashing Dan, LIRR’s iconic mid-century commuter shown dashing to catch his always on time train seems woefully outdated today.
Along with the aging tracks and tunnels, it’s time to update Dashing Dan too.
No, not for his Mad Men era fedora and mid-century garb.
Sadly today Dashing Dan would be less likely to be dashing to make his punctual train as he would be racing to his missed appointment after his commuter train was an hour late due to train derailments, signal problems or any number of disruption to service.
Instead of singing the Long Island Rail Road’s praises as was his original intent, today’s Dashing Dan would most likely be muttering an expletive or two under his breath.
Nowadays, Dan this once proud symbol of the efficient LIRR is the poster boy for our crumbling infrastructure.
Stalled trains, an antiquated signal system, massive delays and cancellations are crippling commuters unwittingly making Dashing Dan’s and Dashing Dottie’s out of all of us.
And yes there is a Dashing Dottie, but as often happens, this female commuter took a back seat on the train next to her more well publicized male counterpart. Like so many untold stories of unheralded women, Dottie has her own.
Most Long Islanders are familiar with lovable Dan, LIRR’s company logo created in the late 1950s to increase railroad ridership and boost general good will. This perpetually running late suburban commuter dashing from his split level to his job in the city appeared as decals on the sides of locomotives, passenger cars, work equipment promotional material as well as souvenirs.
Less well-known Dottie was introduced in 1963 as a companion to Dan. Kind of like creating Ken for Barbie but in reverse.
Mere months before the publication of “The Feminine Mystique” when rumblings from women expressing their second class status began to be quietly heard, female commuters on the LIRR voiced their own displeasure at being underrepresented. Dashing Dan, they protested, didn’t typify all commuters! Apparently bake sales were not all that were being discussed at PTA meetings.
The LIRR publicity department responded to their grumblings and decided to create their very own homage to the female commuter. Developing a name took time. As a nod to Rosie the Riveter they briefly considered “Rushing Rosie” followed by my personal favorite and all too true today- “Sprinting Sally” but eventually settled on Dashing Dottie that worked oh so much better with Dan.
Of course Dottie was more likely to be headed to her job as a stenographer or secretary than an executive.
Dashing Dottie made her debut in an issue of ” Dashing Dan’s Diary” a newsletter in the early 1960’s issued by the LIRR Public Relations department. The issue was aboard all the commuter trains in the morning to introduce Dottie to their riders. Despite creating her as a response to women’s protests, they dished up Dottie to satisfy men’s appetites, making sure her “anatomical parts” were mighty pleasing.
The headline read : “Here She is, Men: Dashing Dottie”
Here she – is Dashing Dan’s favorite running mate, Dashing Dottie,
Dottie is both the culmination of a dream for a cartoon counterpart of Dan and the answer to those distaff commuters who felt left out because all the emphasis has been on Dan.”
While Dan just sort of growed from a PR department doodle pad, Dottie was carefully and lovingly “assembled” until the combination of ‘anatomical parts and clothing seemed just right.
“We think she looks mighty sharp and pretty – just like our real life Dashing Dotties.
Dottie’s going to be a busy girl. Her first activity will be to co-star with Dan in a design for a couple of handsome new souvenir items that will be ready around the end of May.
Driving You to Drink
In an era when bar cars were the norm for commuters who could count on downing a final scotch on the rocks before heading home to the kiddies, Dan and Dottie figured prominently on cocktail paraphernalia.
A popular gift item was a “Dan n’ Dottie Cocktails 4 Two” set. It consisted of a 16 ounce Libby glass, mixing pitcher, two matching cocktail glasses and a glass stirrer. On one glass is Dottie, the other Dan. Both appear on the pitcher- running headlong into each other.
In 1963 LIRR even concocted a new cocktail for commuters named Dashing Dan. It consisting of a 1.6 ounces Vodka on rocks, a dash of orange bitters and a sliver of fresh orange. Drink cost 95 cents but you got to keep the Dashing Dan glass with the familiar logo.
Though there are no longer bar cars on the trains, the LIRR might consider bringing them back. Along with re jiggering Dashing Dan and Dashing Dottie they might want to brink back those cocktails.
Disgruntled commuters could sure use a Dashing Dan drink right about now.
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2017.