The Trolley Car Family by Elinor Clymer

This was a favorite of mine when I was a kid.  We had a paperback copy of it, good and beat up, that I read many times.   I’m not sure what made me think of it recently, but I decided to find a used copy to buy and I’m delighted that I did. This is one of those stories that apparently made an enormous impression on me as over the years I’ve often thought of particular parts or phrases or illustartions over and over again.

The premise is that a jolly noisy family spends the summer living in a trolley car out in the country.  Their father drove the trolley car but the company was closing, so while he figured out what to do for work they decided to have this adventure.  They also invite along their grouchy next door neighbor, who is a milkman.  Well, what a summer they have.  Everyone loves living in the country, exploring, getting chickens and a cow, starting a garden, and so on.  What I loved then, and upon rereading still did, were the descriptions of how they set up the trolley car into living quarters.  It all seemed delightfully fun and adventuresome then, and it still does.  Reading it as an adult I realize that one thing they never addressed was where they all went to the bathroom.  Also the baby was in diapers and I can’t even imagine what a chore that must have been to deal with. A wonderful old-fashioned friend of a book!

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11 thoughts on “The Trolley Car Family by Elinor Clymer

  1. I have been searching for this book (I couldn’t remember name or author!) for many years! I feel the exact same way about this story- my twin sister and i loved it and i am going to order it, and suprise her with it on our birthday! if i can hold out that long!

  2. i recently found a box of my childhood books and was amazed when i saw this book how much i remembered it and loved it. i was intrigued as a child by the thought of someone converting and living in a trolley car in the way they did, and strangely enough i now live in a community where many people actually do. i have made this comment to many people over recent years but no one else had read the book. i’m glad i’ve found others that have too. i will be giving a copy to my nephews and nieces.

  3. This is one of my all-time favorites as a child. I have the paperback copy my Mom, Aleene Parker, had when she was a 10-year-old girl growing up in Southwestern Ohio here on my shelf in my home library in The Netherlands. I just found her name written on the title page, the same cover as the one in your photo, a 1958 TAB Books edition. I was making a list of my all-time favorite books this afternoon, which is not as long as it might be considering I’m a voracious reader and librarian, getting ready to post to my blog The Uncommon Reader. The Trolley Car Family totally made the cut and finding your post helped me remember why.

    I agree that the magic of this book is the way the family cheerfully creates a home and community out of practically nothing. I love the rebellion that inspires the father to ride the trolley car to the end of the line and park it there. I love the simple pleasures they enjoy in their new lives in the country. Somehow, the pillows look softer, the beds made of trolley seats look cosier. I wanted to live in a trolley car…or a hollowed out hill or in a tree house or in a London garret, anywhere unusual, snug and/or wonderfully eccentric, someplace adventuresome as you so rightly put it. I suppose leaving Ohio and living abroad is my way of bringing the trolley car imagery to life…the number 2 tram in The Hague runs right by my front door and now I wonder if my reading and re-reading of this book when I was 10 led me to buy this very house at age 40!

    • This book really strikes a chord with people, I think. I love your story about it and can’t wait to check out The Uncommon Reader. What an adventure to go off and live in the Netherlands (which I’ve visited once, and loved)!!

  4. This is also one of my favorite books! I’ve been wanting to buy another copy since mine got damaged in a fire, but I wasn’t remembering the name correctly. I kept searching for “The Trolley Car Children” and couldn’t find it. I finally figured it out today and did a correct search and yours is the first entry I read from my search. It brought me to tears to hear yours and others feelings for this books and revisit mine. I can’t wait to read this book to my kids again. It will be the first time my 4.5 yr old gets to hear it. I just read The Box Car Children to them in one sitting. I just get so excited about reading children’s books with my kids! Thank you for posting this.

    • Oh! That’s so wonderful! And, I have a five year old and can’t believe I haven’t thought to read it to him. I’ll have to get out that and The Boxcar Children. Thank yoU!

  5. This book has stayed with me for 62 years, I loved it when I first read it and cannot wait to read it to my grandchildren, so happy I found it and for years could not think of the title. Also, thrilled that it made an impression on so many others, I thought it was just me!!

    Shirley

    • It’s amazing how many people like it! It’s really an enchanting story, isn’t it? I hope your grandchildren like it.

  6. Haven’t read this book in 50 years and would like to share it with my granddaughter. It made a huge impression on me about being out of work, making do with the resources on hand etc.

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