The reason the NYCT&LC lies about the start date is because in the mid 1990's many things changed in NYC dealing with quality of life issues. Partitions were not new then.
Many cities that have implemented partition requirements, have since, abandoned them. Not Boston, NYC or Philadelphia, though.
NYC is convinced that they need one iconic vehicle as their only permitted model. Judges have repeatedly denied TLC claims and initiatives.
By TED WEST
Published: December 18, 2005
NEW YORK, Dec. 18, 1984 - You're late. The Checker cab you hail lurches to the curb, brakes squealing like a throttled pullet. You reach for the trademark stripe of black-and-white checkers on its yellow doors and climb in. Slamming the door shut makes a bucket-of-bolts clatter that goes on like an echo in a box canyon. The back seat is way back there, a short stroll from the door. You pass the two "jump seats," folded into the floor. They look ravaged, though rarely have you seen them used.
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BLACK AND WHITE AND RODE ALL OVER A Checker-like design in a 2005 show at the Parsons school.
Maybe it was a 60's thing.
You slump down on the broad, featureless back seat and worry. (You're still late.) You give no thought to the chasm between you and the Checker's signature "Life-Guard" metal and plexiglass partition. It's there for the driver's protection, not yours. And no recorded message from Al Jolson implores you to fasten your seat belt. What seat belt? In a violent stop, you'll reach peak velocity just as you meet the "Life-Guard" partition, teeth first.
And yet, and yet. ... For nearly 50 years, since 1956, the Checker Marathon cab has been a New York emblem. It hasn't rumbled down the city's streets for years, yet its hallmark checker motif still looms large at an exhibition on the New York cab of the future, being held through Jan. 15 at Parsons the New School of Design.
Why such staying power in New York memories? The Checker cab was as New York as Fiorello La Guardia's grin. Sure, there were a few Checkers plying the streets of Chicago and other cities aspiring to greatness - but who asked? Before the Checker, various humdrum 50's family sedans - Chevrolet Delrays, Plymouth Savoys and such - were auditioned, but they were no match for Manhattan's rugged realities. New York demanded a taxi that was nothing but a taxi, a taxi built like a Walker Bulldog medium tank. The Checker made its debut, and it was love at first bounce.
As if to underscore its unique suitability, the Checker looked like no other vehicle, and Detroit's automakers worked hard to keep it that way. It had four headlamps and a big, gaping chrome grille like a frozen automotive rendering of "The Scream." It functioned differently, too, sending a simple message: "I carry five fares - no other cab can. Period." If you numbered fewer than five (and you did), a Checker offered vast room to rattle around in, its suspension banging and slamming, taking note of every pavement paint stripe, pebble and pothole along the way.
To gentle souls from Topeka, this all sounds awful. Yet I, like many New Yorkers, would give anything for one more full-throttle Checker cab ramble up Madison Avenue, clattering around the back like a ball bearing in a blender.
That's impossible, of course. Six years ago today, on Dec. 18, 1999, the last Checker to give a rider a Manhattan tumble was sold in an auction at Sotheby's. That final Checker cab, owned by Earl Johnson since 1978, had logged 994,050 New York miles, about 40 times around the world. The cab was auctioned for $134,500. Mr. Johnson, who remembered paying $9,000 for it new, retired to Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Depending on the state of New York City's finances, the fate of a taxicab here could be cruel. In the near-bankrupt 70's, a drive down pockmarked Second Avenue was like driving down the Grand Canyon. By comparison, today's playing surface is bowling-alley smooth. Nonetheless, since 1956, feast or famine, the beloved Checker cab had taken every blow New York dealt - and delivered it straight to the consumer.
It took a very special vehicle to approach one million New York miles. That gritty vehicle arose from decades of trial, error and worse. The man most responsible was a Russian immigrant, Morris Markin, of Smolensk. He arrived in the United States in 1913 with $2 in his pocket. The urban taxicab business was in its infancy when Mr. Markin settled in Chicago. By 1922, somewhat miraculously, he owned the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company. Taxi wars eliminated company after company, and when the dust settled, Checker emerged with only one major competitor, Yellow Cab of Chicago, owned by John Hertz. Yes, that Hertz.
In 1923, Mr. Markin moved Checker taxi construction to Kalamazoo, Mich. At the time, 600 Checkers were on New York streets. In 1930, Checker introduced its eye-catching Series "M" cab, boasting flashy flared fenders, a high, narrow grille, rectangular headlights, wheel covers that were smooth cones - and rear seat cushions filled with down!
Each time a fare got out, the driver reached back with a special paddle to fluff up the down for arriving nobility.
During the Depression, Mr. Markin lost, then regained control of Checker. Business improved gradually. By the late 30's, 18,000 Checkers were plying the nation's biggest cities. Along the way, Mr. Markin brought all nine of his brothers and sisters from Russia to America.
During World War II, Checker patriotically and profitably built trailers and troop-truck cabs for Ford.
But on Jan. 26, 1956, New York met the first Checker "A8," the taxi we all loved. At 200 inches long, it was more compact than the 224-inch cabs in use, yet it was vastly more spacious. Checker production hovered at 4,500 to 6,500 cars a year through the 60's and 70's. Various engines by Continental, Chevrolet and Chrysler were used. The general public could buy its own version of the Checker, called the Superba, which in 1961 was renamed the Marathon. In 1963, ambitious Checker announced a luxury Town Custom Limousine, with all power accessories and a partitioned driver compartment. Never hurts to try.
Still, the rugged-riding Checker compared poorly with softer passenger cars. New Yorkers knew it had only one role, as the best taxicab in the world.
Things went swimmingly until the 70's. Very suddenly, serious gas crises made smaller cars with more economical engines attractive, especially if a threatened gas-guzzler tax took effect. And the Checker's toughness had always made it more expensive than other taxis. The graffiti was on the wall. The end was nigh.
The last Checker was built on July 13, 1982. By 1993, only 10 New York Checkers remained. And in these waning years, if you saw a Checker with its hood up - you might - you'd see a length of chain holding the front fenders together. After several hundred thousand miles, Checkers went a bit bow-legged.
It was the end of an era. Gone was the practice of wearing your hat in a cab. (What's a hat?) Bid farewell to the five-on-a-fare undergrad rides to the Village. Say goodbye to taxicabs with room for strollers in back and taxicabs with kids fighting to sit on the jump seats. The Checker dwindled. Dwindled. And then there were none.