Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Traffic Light Outage at Four Corners Reminds Pelham of When Mack, the "Jovial Traffic Cop" was Out Sick

The intersection of Boston Post Road (U.S. Route 1) and Pelhamdale Avenue in the Village of Pelham Manor is a historic place.  Long known as "Red Church Corner" because of the little wooden red church that once stood there and as "Four Corners," the intersection long has been the busiest in the Village of Pelham Manor.

The Nor'easter that rampaged over the region last Friday, March 2, blew down trees and utility poles throughout Pelham, knocking out electricity including that which provided power to the traffic light at Four Corners.  Pelham Manor police erected temporary four-way stop signs at the intersection with long lines of cars at rush hour snaking carefully through the intersection for days.  (Power was restored and the light was reactivated overnight last night.)  Occasionally during the last three and a half days when traffic at the intersection became particularly bad, Pelham Manor police officers served as temporary traffic cops standing in the center of the intersection and directing traffic to move it along -- the same spot where their famous predecessor Mack the Traffic Cop once worked full time.

I have written about Pelham Manor Police Officer John "Mack" McCormack before.  See:

Mon., Feb. 24, 2014:  Mack, the Movie Star Traffic Cop of Pelham Manor, 1916-1928.

Fri., Sep. 23, 2016:  More on the History of the Police Booth at Four Corners in Pelham Manor.

Wed., Nov. 29, 2017:  Pelham Grows Up: Installation of "Silent Cop" Traffic Lights and Traffic Semaphores in the 1920s.

In mid-December, 1922, construction on Boston Post Road to widen and improve the roadway had just been completed.  Poor Mack, the "Movie Star Traffic Cop" of Pelham Manor had spent an exceedingly long time standing on his box in the center of the intersection at Four Corners trying to unsnarl the mess of traffic that tried to navigate the road construction in the area.

Then, in the second week of December something seemed amiss at Red Church Corner.  A reporter at The Pelham Sun received a phone tip that something was wrong at Four Corners and that he should take a look for himself.  The reporter took off from the newspaper offices near the Pelham train station on foot, but soon flagged down an auto to hitch a ride to Red Church Corner.

When he arrived, all seemed well.  Nothing was amiss at the recently-built stone sanctuary of the Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church.  The "Pop's Gas Station" that stood at the intersection was fine.  A small real estate office that stood at the intersection also was fine.  Slightly down the road, the Old Red Church (once the wooden sanctuary of Huguenot Memorial that was moved up Boston Post Road when the stone sanctuary was built) seemed fine.  

The reporter was puzzled until he turned to ask Mack the Jovial Traffic Cop what was wrong.  When he turned, he realized what was wrong.  Mack was not there!  

For the moment, Pelham Manor Police Officer Cornelius Ormond was standing in Mack's place.  Mack was sick with tonsillitis and was out for a few days.  As the reporter later noted:

"Mack was not there.  That's what it was -- Mack, the jovial Hibernian guardian of the crossing was not in his accustomed place.  'Wassa matter?'"

Red Church Corner was out of sorts for the few days Mack was missing in December, 1922, just like today's Four Corners was out of sorts for a few days this week when Mack's automated machine ancestor was out of commission.  Yet, for some in Pelham who know of the history of Mack the jovial traffic cop at Red Church Corner, it was particularly soothing to see Pelham Manor Police Officers helping direct traffic at the intersection over the last few days. . . . . . . . . . . 

The Police Booth at Four Corners Before Its Recent
Restoration. Note the Light Atop the Structure, Likely
Once a Green Light to Signify, When Lit, That an
Officer Such as Pelham Manor Police Officer John "Mack"
McCormack Was Present. NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *          *          *

"Mack, Ill, Is Missed At Red Church Corner
Unfamiliar Air About Historic Corner During Absence of Jovial Traffic Cop

Motorists who frequent the reconstructed Boston Road have reported that there is an unfamiliar air about the historic Red Church Corner.  This report reached the Sun office and a reporter was dispatched post haste to dig out the trouble.

To give fleeter wing to the Mercuric feet of the press, the reporter hailed a passing motorist.  'Trouble at the Red Church Corner.  Want to get there on the double.  Give us a lift,' he panted, as he dashed alongside the car.  'Hop in,' was the reply, and the reporter cooled his dogs.

As the car approached the corner the reporter jumped out.  'Lemme see; Pop's gas station is still here.  That's O. K.  Huguenot Memorial Church -- O. K.; old Red Church -- O. K.; real estate office -- O. K.; everything Jake, but still there's unmistakably something wrong here.

'Ah!  There is no road work being done.  Nope nothin' doin' for a couple of days.  Say, Mack,' turning to the traffic cop, 'what's wrong aroun---'

But Mack was not there.  That's what it was -- Mack, the jovial Hibernian guardian of the crossing was not in his accustomed place.  'Wassa matter?  Where's Mack?  How did you get here?' we buzzed the questions of Officer Cornelius Ormond, who stood in McCormack's place.

'Why, Mack is sick with tonsilitis [sic].  I'm rubbin' for him for a few days.  'Sallright, he'll be back soon,' said Connie.

We did a little checking back with Chief Philip Gargan, and are now assuring Pelhamites that Mack will be back in a short time."

Source:  Mack, Ill, Is Missed At Red Church Corner -- Unfamiliar Air About Historic Corner During Absence of Jovial Traffic Cop, The Pelham Sun, Dec. 15, 1922, p. 18, col. 5.

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