© 2023 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

But Did He Ever Return? No, He Never Returned

Courtesy of Julia O'Brien-Merrill

Lots of songs have been used as anthems for particular causes or movements. But probably only one for a transit system. The song is the story of Charlie, a hapless commuter who finds himself trapped on the Boston subway.

Charlie’s story was made famous by the Kingston Trio in the song “M.T.A.” in 1959, but it was written for an actual mayoral candidate—not George O’Brien, but Walter O’Brien.

Walter’s daughter Julia O’Brien-Merrill, featured in this story, is the author of the children’s book Charlie on the M.T.A.: Did He Ever Return? with illustrations by Caitlin Marquis.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.