As we’ve been digging into old boxes, and the back of desk drawers, for forgotten pictures of Metrolinx’s transit past – all part of a continuing series we’ve dubbed HistoricGO – one stack of black and white prints caught our eye. It was the interaction between GO Transit staff working at two stations, and customers arriving to buy a new batch of tickets. The moments captured quiet interactions and exchanges, and speak volumes about the relationships built at these transit stops – especially for one station attendant seen toiling in the images.
For 17 years, Dorothy Archer had the ticket to ride.
If you were travelling out of the Oakville GO station back in the mid-1980s, Archer – along with fellow stations attendants – was the person to see to get to where you needed to go.
“I liked the challenge – you had rush hour – and meeting the people,” she now recalls, 20 years since she retired.
The number of customers she served, and talked with, during those years is difficult to calculate. But there would have been thousands who walked up to her window and put their cash down to purchase tickets and monthly passes.
How many talks about the heat or the cold took place every day? Or even just the best way to get into Toronto or west toward Hamilton? How much change passed under her fingers?
A few of those moments are captured in a series of photos taken at Oakville and Pickering stations. Undated, they appear to be from the 1980s. They were likely routine and not particularly exceptional, but now – in the glossy black and white prints found unlabeled in a box in a corner of a Metrolinx office – represent a time capsule of links, however fleeting, between GO staff and riders.
Those relationships continue today, including on buses and trains, and Archer recalls customers were one of the things she loved about her years.
In the stack of photos – including of her working next to fellow station attendant, John Phillips – there are images of boxes being unloaded from a truck. She now guesses they were likely new monthly passes being issued.
In her early days, she recalls, it was all cash transactions. Only later did the attendants begin to take credit card purchases.
As well as those who lined up for the tickets – dressed in velour shorts, wide-legged suit pants and hats for the older women – the images also captured activity inside the busy ticket office.
Coins are wrapped in paper and then tied with elastic bands, sitting on a counter to Archer’s right. Paper tickets stacked neatly next to a hole-punch. And there are also rail timetables within easy sight of a large clock counting down the minutes until the next GO train and bus.
Archer still lives in Oakville, and now an 87-year-old widow, she gets together occasionally with old workmates. Bonds formed between fellow workers, and even exchanges with customers, endure, she says.
“Just such good people,” she adds of both those inside and those outside the glass of her ticket booth – where she, and those she worked with, always had a ticket to ride.