Nancy Ewancio-Irons




I was 25 years old at the time living with my sister in Staten Island. I had just moved back to the island from Boston and was looking for a job. My brother-in-law saw the ad and passed it along. The interview was held at George Washington bridge and I got the job.

I was hired and part of the first group of civilian women toll collectors for Staten Island. There were several weeks of training, yes weeks! The training was more of an etiquette class than having anything to do with collecting tolls. We were taught to walk properly, dress properly -- with white gloves, skirts, makeup, perfume, high-heels, and even told to wear the right jewelry. They taught us how to stand properly and made us practice, standing was required for our eight-hour shifts.

The first bridge I was assigned was the Bayonne bridge, where I collected tolls from people on both sides, coming from New Jersey and leaving New York. It was early morning when I was working in 1970 that the toll was changed to only one way. I remember that day and the confusion everyone had with the change...but over the past half a century the changes were far bigger than I could imagine. THE TOLL WAS LESS THAN .50 CENTS WHEN I STARTED!

Us women from those early years walked the picket line for pay and benefits, filled the board meetings in the World Trade Center with raucous protesting, fought for our rights to maintain our jobs when we were married and had children (I was the first to get married and have children while working) and we became a close group.

I loved my job, enjoyed all the people I worked with, and brightened the days of the regular customers. Some of my fondest memories are of my job and the amazing people! Being a toll collector paid for my house, for my children to go to college, gave me great medical and dental benefits and a retirement that still leaves me, now in my 80s and a survivor of several cancers, comfortable.

Today my grandchildren do not understand having to stop at a toll lane to pay a toll, the entire job has all but faded away and been replaced with technology. The booths we worked in, offices, break rooms demolished. Even some of the bridges have been replaced and the central offices in the World Trade Center where I would visit some of the women who rose up the ranks at the Port of Authority after I retired were taken away -- but the memories remain good and strong.



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