Veronica M. Jacobson, 95, pioneer female cabdriver

September 02, 2006|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

Veronica M. Jacobson, thought to be the first female cabdriver in Baltimore and whose career behind the wheel spanned more than 30 years, died in her sleep Tuesday at her daughter's Parkville home. She was 95.

Veronica Marie Jachimowicz, a daughter of Polish immigrants, was born and raised in a home in the 1600 block of Thames St.

She attended the parochial school at St. Stanislaus Kostka Roman Catholic Church until the sixth grade, when she left to go to work in one of the lofts in the city's garment district.

In 1929, she was married to Milton Jaronczyk, a United Railways streetcar motorman, After he was laid off, the couple purchased hack tags for their 1929 Chevrolet sedan and went into business as the New Broadway Cab Co.

After answering a few questions, she received her chauffeur's license at the Baltimore Police Department.

As for her claim about being the first female cabdriver in Baltimore, The Sun said in a 1999 article: "And who's to dispute it? She started hacking in 1929, before most of us were born. And no records from those days seem to survive at the Police Department, the Motor Vehicle Administration or the Public Service Commission, which regulates cabs."

"They painted their car in similar colors to match those of local taxis, hoping to get fares. My dad, who was good at sewing, fixed up a pantsuit for her, and she cut her hair and wore it in a man's style," said her daughter, Mildred Trawinski. "Fares would often remark, `Look, it's a lady driving the cab!'"

Her husband, whom she later divorced, shortened the family's name to Jaron. He drove nights, while his wife handled the day shift.

"My fares were people I used to take to work. We used to stand at Broadway and Pratt Street. People used to come there and take the cab to work, 10-cent rides," Mrs. Jacobson told The Sun in the 1999 article.

"I'd take them every morning, four of them at a time; then I had other jobs, steady riders. People liked me. They'd call me up. I'd take them places, to work and different theaters," she said.

Mrs. Jacobson recalled that in the 1930s, a ride on the streetcar was 10 cents, while the average cab fare was 35 cents. Gas was 8 cents a gallon, and her Chevy cab got 15 to 18 miles a gallon.

"If you made $3 a day in those days, you were a lucky person," she said in the newspaper interview.

She and her husband did all of their own repair and maintenance work, and it wasn't unusual to see carburetors and other mechanical parts lining the sidewalk in front of their Thames Street home, her daughter said.

"We overhauled them. I used to take the rings and pistons out. My husband was on the bottom. ... I used to tune the valves up," Mrs. Jacobson recalled in the interview.

"I could change a tire in five minutes. I relined the brakes on the car before my husband got up. I jacked the car up, took the brakes off, put new brakes on. All he had to do was just bleed them," she said.

Mrs. Jacobson picked up and delivered passengers to the city's railroad stations. She waited for shoppers and their bundles outside Lexington Market and transported the pious to church on Sundays.

She also worked the waterfront, picking up seamen coming down the gangplanks of steamers that had tied up in Fells Point, at the foot of Broadway, or over at the piers on Clinton, Pratt, and Light streets.

"Rightaways, when they get in the cab they say, `Take us to the first barroom, we want to get a beer,'" Mrs. Jacobson said in the interview. She also recalled the beer-parched salts as being good tippers who often asked her to join them in their barroom revelries.

"In addition to the taxi business, they also brewed and sold bootleg beer during Prohibition; that's how they got through the Depression," her daughter said.

During World War II, she worked testing jeeps for the Army at Fort Holabird.

After giving up her own cab for 20 years, she went to work for Sun, Diamond and Yellow cab companies until retiring in the 1960s.

During her career, Mrs. Jacobson never had an accident, was stiffed for a fare or forced to look down the barrel of a robber's handgun.

"No. One look at me, and they got scared," she said in the interview. "No. I didn't have no troubles. Everybody was nice I picked up."

In 1958, she remarried. Her husband, John Jacobson, a Norwegian seaman, died in 1977.

In the late 1970s, Mrs. Jacobson moved to Orlando, Fla., where she lived until returning to Baltimore in 1980, and moving in with her daughter.

Mrs. Jacobson, who owned a red Pontiac Bonnevilles, would drive from her Florida home to her daughter's in Baltimore, making the trip in one day.

"She'd drive by herself and leave very, very early in the morning. She'd stop for a rest, wash her face, get something to eat, and arrive at my house later that evening," her daughter said.

She was an avid duckpin and tenpin bowler, and enjoyed the sport until she was in her late 80s.

Mrs. Jacobson continued driving to the Hatton Senior Center in Canton where she played bingo, to a weekly poker game with friends, and to Sunday Masses at St. Stan's until she gave up her license and driving at the age of 92.

She was a member of St. Isaac Jogues Roman Catholic Church, 9400 Old Harford Road, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 9 a.m. today.

Also surviving are a son, Joseph Jaron of Meadville, Pa.; 12 grandchildren; and many great- and great-great-grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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