Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation has romance on its mind.
Last week, the agency put out a call for tales of love lost and found at South Station: stories of people who had their meet-cute or long overdue romantic reunion at the major transit hub.
“Has Cupid ever struck you at South Station?” a MassDOT blog post asked. “Perhaps you met your special someone while waiting for the next train. Or do you recall tireless nights of traveling through the station to reach your final destination, the arms of your sweetheart? Do you know anyone who has ever popped the question nearby?”
Submissions must be sent to email@example.com by Jan. 31. Entries will be shared on the MassDOT blog.
Of course, train travel and stations loom large in the imagination of paramours across the ages. Think 1945’s “Brief Encounter” and 1995’s “Before Sunrise” and 2004’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” (All come highly recommended by yours truly, by the way.)
But it turns out that, even in real life, romantic encounters have long been a part of the history of South Station — hailing back to November 1925, when Mr. and Mrs. Harley S. Varney celebrated their 25th anniversary with a cake that was a reproduction of South Station, as reported by the Globe.
“The wedding cake was a replica of the South Station Boston,” the Globe wrote, “with its network of tracks and showing the paymaster’s car ready on its weekly route and was inscribed ‘1900-1925.’ ”
Four years later, in 1929, South Station played backdrop to a romance of a different kind: Two 15-year-olds, Ethel Boudreau of West Medford and Harry B. Jones of Arlington rendezvoused at South Station as they headed off to elope. The boy’s father received a phone call “to the effect that a nervous appearing couple, answering the description of the missing boy and girl, were seen about 1 o’clock this afternoon in the South Station waiting to board a New York train.”
(“Mother, dear, please, don’t worry,” Jones wrote in a note to his family, who apparently disapproved of the match. “I can take care of myself.”)
Fast-forward to the years after World War II, when South Station served as the setting for romantic reunions of couples forged in chaos: British war brides arrived in throngs to meet their American husbands.
“Two thrilling chapters in the life of a pretty English war bride reached a climax at South Station yesterday when she was . . . reunited with her ex-G.I. husband,” the Globe wrote of 28-year-old Eileen Reese-Boughton and her husband, Frank Goodness, in February 1946.
The same scene unfolded two months later, a dozen English and Scottish brides reunited with their husbands on the station platform. Mrs. Anthony DeMaio was received by her husband, of Newton Center, “who met her at the train with a huge bouquet of red roses.”
And Salvatore Calabufalo of Waltham was spotted by the onlookers “hugging the pretty English girl with that complete indifference to an audience that marks station reunions.”
Adorable much. But of course, that legacy of train station enchantments continue into today.
Don’t believe me? Just check Craigslist’s “Missed Connections,” where submissions from lovelorn commuters range from the understated (“Sat next to you. Cute grey boots. I wish I got your number.”) to the elegiac.
“I have returned to that train platform many an afternoon following work. . . And I have paid special attention on Tuesdays and Thursdays hoping to run into you again,” wrote one Craigslist user to a woman named Erica. “That little ten minute respite, lamenting a disabled train ahead . . . everyday it feels like just yesterday. Just hoping you remember it as fondly as I do. Maybe our paths will cross again?”
Maybe. And if so — it probably warrants an e-mail MassDOT.
Ask, and ye shall receive.
In this column last month, I aired a commuter’s concerns about the sign at the end of the Ted Williams Tunnel leading to Logan International Airport: “You come around the bend, and you are all of a sudden, without ANY advance warning signs, faced with getting into left lane for departures and right lane for arrivals.”
At best, the signs caused confusion. At worst, it was a situation ripe for a disastrous outcome as motorists swerved into the correct lane before they missed their turnoff.
An additional “ARRIVALS/DEPARTURES” sign appearing earlier in the journey to the airport, the tipster suggested, would give drivers more time to anticipate whether they would need to shift lanes.
Richard Walsh, spokesman for the Massachusetts Port Authority, said the agency would take that suggestion under consideration and look at how, and where, additional signs may be helpful.
And now Massport has done just that.
In December, the agency installed a temporary sign near the Ted Williams Tunnel exit into Logan that provided a bit of advance notice.
This week, Walsh said a bigger, more permanent overhead sign is scheduled to be installed on Thursday, at the same point in the tunnel where part of the roadway begins to veer toward the airport.
The message will be simple: Departures, left lane. Arrivals, right lane.
And for those looking for some extra guidance, our same tipster said he has come to remember which lane to enter by recalling that the first letters of the two turnoffs — “D” for departures and “A” for arrivals — are in reverse alphabetical order.