By Peter Samuel
Allan Youngstein, manager at the Yonkers toll plaza of the New York State Thruway recently set up a Memorabilia Display in the foyer of their recently rehabbed toll building. Its a pair of glass fronted display cabinets of toll collectors caps, uniform rank patches, badges, keys, epaulettes, uniform buttons, ID cards and the various Thruway tickets, maps, old annual reports and the like. At various times the Thruway has made the odd dollar off selling ashtrays, plates, mugs, and glasses imprinted with Thruway scenes and insignia, and Youngstein has gathered together lots of this stuff.
Most toll collectors these days wear regular street clothes like bank tellers or sales clerks, but there was a time when the toll business was like a branch of the military or the police with all the paraphernalia of uniforms, ranks, rank markings, and even military/police style briefings and drills before a new shift went out to the booths. It was daily war against toll evaders! A few toll agencies (Triborough NYC for example) maintain much of this military/police type toll tradition.
Whether or not you favor maintaining the tradition, few would argue with the value of preserving the history of tolling and of the toll institutions. It is surely valuable for employees and the public to be conscious of the history and evolution of tolling, and how things were done before, and a bit about the people who made it all happen.
Youngstein has been collecting Thruway memorabilia all the 19 years he has been working there. But he credits his wife Kristy, a toll collector with a higher tech way of collecting. She went on the internet auction service eBay to haul in old NYSTA stuff from the public. Youngstein is hoping to keep adding to the collection, which sounds like the beginnings of a New York State Thruway History Museum. We expect him soon to be appointed Chief Historian and Museumologist, or something, and to be raising money for the construction of an official museum building at one of the Thruways major service plazas. Contributions gratefully received by a bunch of old ACMs set up at the various service plazas? (Contact AlKristy@aol.com)
Incidentally the greatest collection of toll memorabilia we know of is located in Camarillo CA at the office of veteran toll industry technologist and personality Al Palmer, a meticulous collector, filer, cataloguer, and chronicler, who is also working on a history of tolling in North America. (Palmer tel 805 484 4308 MRTOLLS@aol.com)