A brief history of cabs in Laurel reveals Arnold’s Cab Company, founded September 22,1926, to be the first full time cab service for this area. Previous to Arnold’ s, horses and carriages were available for hire, with or without driver, from the livery stables at the junctions of US 1 and Main Street.
The driver with the longest continuous service to Laurel is Ed “Whitey” Knisley of Yellow Top Cab. “When I first came here I established squatters rights,” Knisley says.
Jesse Cornwell, of Bob’s Cab Company has been around longer than Knisley, but his service to the area has not been continuous.
Laurel once had a woman cab driver. Her name was Mrs. Calvin Hamilton, and she drove a cab which she bought from Bernie Arnold. About 1933 she turned this cab over to her brother, Gilbert White, who founded White’s Cab in 1953.
A merger of the two existing Laurel companies is now being considered.
The rapport between Laurel cabbies and Laurel, State, and Prince George’s County policemen is very good. As may be expected, there are a few in disfavor, however.
Many Laurel taximan have aided police by reporting accidents, burglaries in progress, runaway children, suspicious persons, and one noteworthy instance Larry Goff, of Yellow Top Cab singlehandedly captured two soldiers who had escaped the stockade at Ft. Meade.
A vote of confidence was given Director Stawinski recently when certain Laurel officials stated it is not feasible or desirable at this time to bring the cab drivers of Laurel under the direction of the Laurel city government.
The cab industry may be described as democratic. There are 10-15 woman drivers in Prince George’s County. They do very well, but the Bureau desires them to confine their activities to day-time driving. There are never any disqualifications due to race, color or creed. A total of 15 companies and 71 owners, plus many more drivers, service the county. They transport some 50,000 passengers a month.
A decision to enter the taxi industry should be met with two resolutions. Obey the laws governing taxicabs. One may pull a few fast deals and get away with them, but the word soon gets out and one will find an inspector on his trail. If this happens, it’s a downhill road all the way.
Secondly, remember it’s a highly competitive business and quite frankly” dog eat dog.” The beginner will make many costly mistakes, but observation of the oldtimers at work will teach much. Should the new driver be fortunate and have an oldtimer take him under his wing the road to higher earnings will be easier.
Concerning earnings, Director Stawinski declares, “We like to see persons who are in low paying jobs apply for licenses. If they can pass the tests they raise their standard of living in the county.”
There have been instances of college students failing the tests. The reason is very simple: they did not study the rate regulations, the locations questions, and did not review the driver’s handbook. The tests are not designed to make it easy for one to become licensed. Neither are they impassable.
Interested persons should acquire the list of most frequent violations. It will aid them in better understanding the rules. It is free for the asking.
The cost of obtaining a license is not great. It’s less than $20.00. Be prepared to deposit $10.00 for the application which is obtained at the Taxi Bureau’s office in Seat Pleasant. A telephone call to the Director’s office will give you all the information needed.
Contrary to public belief one does not have to possess a perfect record to obtain a license. One must, however, tell the absolute truth on his application. A check is always made, even to foreign countries. A liar has no chance of being licensed.
Director Stawinski avers, “We have given many persons an opportunity to better themselves. There have been a few disappointments but only one man has fallen flat on his face.”
It’s fact; arrests of cab drivers for felonies is minimal.
Once accepted, a folder, is entered under the new driver’s name. A permanent record is then on file at the Bureau’s office. All facts pertaining to his record are then the property of the Bureau and the Prince George’s County Police.
The new taximan’s identification card is also the property of the police department and must be surrendered upon demand of the Director.
The Bureau does listen to all complaints against drivers. To be effective a complaint must be written, contain the name of the driver, his face card number and it must be signed by the complainant. No driver may ever refuse to give a passenger identification information.
“The installation of meters reduced our complaints 80 percent,” says Director Stawinski. It would seem most complaints are of overcharges. It is also illegal to undercharge. It does happen as cabbies are wont to cater to favorite customers.
The benefits to the economy of Prince George’s County are tremendous as owners and drivers pump a very large pan of their earnings back into the area.
Of future plans and of major importance to the Director is the realization of a hospitalization plan for all county drivers. As Sgt. Stawinski says, “Our drivers are all independent non-conformists but we’ll try to unite them in this respect for everyone’s benefit.”
We bet he will.
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