Dave Gallagher



BEGINNINGS…Spring 1961. The “Port of New York Authority” (a.k.a. PONYA) was recruiting local college students for summer jobs as toll collectors to cover for staff vacations. A few friends and I applied and several of us were hired. We were called “cadets” and were assigned to the Holland Tunnel where we were issued a uniform (gray shirt and slacks) and spent the first week or so in training to learn the rules and procedures of the toll collection job.

The world of toll collecting was very different then as compared with today’s environment. Tolls were collected in both directions. The Holland Tunnel had a toll plaza in Jersey City and one in Manhattan. Police Officers served as toll collectors. No civilians were allowed in the toll booths - - except for us “cadets.” The police also spent part of their tour walking the catwalk inside the tunnel to monitor traffic. And they were on call to handle accidents and disabled vehicles. The toll for a car was fifty cents ($.50) in each direction - - motorcycles were a quarter ($.25). People would give all combinations of coins or big bills to pay the toll – but pennies were not acceptable. We, in turn, used the coins to give change to those who gave different dollar bills. Change for a ten-dollar bill would often be nine singles and small change. As a toll collector, we learned how to handle the coins in a way to help minimize them by the end of the shift in order to simplify the check-out process as much as possible.

At the time, I had no idea that two years later I’d be hired by the Port Authority on a full-time basis. I was told to report to the offices at 111 8th Avenue—the Port Authority Building. Thus began a long term career that ultimately spanned thirty-three years. During that time I had assignments in six different departments ending back where it all began back in 1961 - - in the TB&T department. Who knew?

The pathway of one’s career is often unpredictable, filled with twists and turns and marked with its ups and downs. Sometimes it turns out to be one big circle -- ending where it all began but filled with a range of friendships and experiences that developed and matured over the decades of our working life.



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