Taxi Drivers Are People, Too

John Hughes - Bronx, New York
Broadcast during the 1950s

John Hughes was born in Ireland, orphaned at the age of two, and came to America when he 19. As a New York City taxi driver for 35 years, Hughes says honesty and a belief in God have made him the man he is.

Themes: immigrant

I believe honesty is one of the greatest gifts there is. I know they call it a lot of fancy names these days, like integrity and forthrightness. But it doesn’t make any difference what they call it; it’s still what makes a man a good citizen. This is my code, and I try to live by it.

I’ve been in the taxicab business for thirty-five years, and I know there is a lot about it that is not so good. Taxicab drivers have to be rough and tumble fellows to be able to take it in New York. You’ve got to be tough to fight the New York traffic eight hours a day, these days. Because taxi drivers are tough, people get the wrong impression that they are bad. Taxi drivers are just like other people. Most of them will shake down as honest fellows. You read in the papers almost every week where a taxi driver turns in money or jewels or bonds, stuff like that, that people leave in their cabs. If they weren’t honest, you wouldn’t be reading those stories in the papers.

One time in Brooklyn, I found an emerald ring in my cab. I remembered helping a lady with a lot of bundles that day, so I went back to where I had dropped her off. It took me almost two days to trace her down in order to return her ring to her. I didn’t get as much as “thank you.” Still, I felt good because I had done what was right. I think I felt better than she did.

I was born and raised in Ireland and lived there until I was nineteen years old. I came to this country in 1913 where I held several jobs to earn a few dollars before enlisting in World War Number I. After being discharged, I bought my own cab and have owned one ever since. It hasn’t been too easy at times, but my wife takes care of our money and we have a good bit put away for a rainy day.

When I first started driving a cab, Park Avenue was mostly a bunch of coal yards. Hoofer’s Brewery was right next to where the Waldorf-Astoria is now. I did pretty well, even in those days.

In all my years of driving a taxicab, I have never had any trouble with the public, not even with drunks. Even if they get a little headstrong once in a while, I just agree with them and then they behave themselves.

People ask me about tips. As far as I know, practically everyone will give you something. Come to think of it, most Americans are pretty generous. I always try to be nice to everyone, whether they tip or not.

I believe in God and try to be a good member of my parish. I try to act toward others like I think God wants me to act. I have been trying this for a long time, and the longer I try, the easier it gets.

John Hughes was born in Ireland, orphaned at the age of two, came to America when he was 19, and served in World War I. As a New York City cab driver for more than 35 years, Hughes often drove Edward R. Murrow to the airport.