A (not too) wild drive

John "Gig" Gigliotti , supervisor of the 5-m.p.h. tram cars that run along the Wildwood Boardwalk. Even at 85, he often works 16-hour days, and he gets behind the wheel whenever he gets a chance. CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
John "Gig" Gigliotti , supervisor of the 5-m.p.h. tram cars that run along the Wildwood Boardwalk. Even at 85, he often works 16-hour days, and he gets behind the wheel whenever he gets a chance. CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Posted: August 03, 2014

With a yellow hat and golf cart emblazoned with his nickname, John "Gig" Gigliotti has perhaps become as iconic on the Wildwood Boardwalk as the yellow tram cars he oversees. A former Conrail train conductor, the 85-year-old West Deptford resident returns to his North Wildwood home each summer, and to his job supervising eight 5-m.p.h. electric trains that transport boardwalk goers along the two-mile stretch. The service has been a staple since 1949.

It's frequent that workers at the eateries and stands along the boardwalk call out "Giggy" as he drives up and down the planks during 16-hour days, seven days a week, April through September.

After beginning the job 21 years ago as a driver, Gigliotti quickly became a supervisor. Each day, he sets up the cars on the boardwalk near Poplar Avenue. And at 11 a.m., before assigning drivers and fare-collectors to each of the cars, he puts his hat to his chest for the National Anthem.

Question: Did you come to Wildwood growing up?

Answer: I was born and raised in the Poconos. I grew up there and of course the Poconos is a great resort, so I had no need to come to the Shore. The only time I came to the Shore was when I joined the Army and I came out of the service and then went to work on the railroad - then I used to come down here.

Q: Did you ever think you'd be working a tram car?

A: No, I used to watch 'em going up and down. But I was a railroad-er then, and I never had (any) idea of working on the trams. However, I loved the tram cars. I have 21 years here.

Q: Talk about your time as a Conrail train conductor.

A: I worked for Reading, which Conrail took over. I put 40 years there as a passenger conductor and a freight conductor. I enjoyed every minute of it. It was a fascinating job.

Q: Did you take this job straight after retiring?

A: I retired in 1992 from Conrail. I stayed home two weeks and I was going crazy. My wife suggested that I check into these little yellow tram cars down here. We had a home on 23d Street in North Wildwood, so I had someplace to stay. So she called the boss, and the boss hired me.

Q: Which job do you like better?

A: That would be a hard pick. Only thing is, this is 5 m.p.h.; over there, we went 100 m.p.h.

Q: Do you miss driving the tram cars?

A: I still get to do it. I still like it. Every chance I get, I jump behind the wheel.

Q: What's a really unique or interesting experience you've had on the boardwalk driving the tram car?

A: Playing the recording ("Watch the tram car, please!") is very essential, and it's a safety factor, and it's the only defense a driver has - and all I hear when I go by is, "Shut that off! Shut that thing off!" People don't like to hear it. But that's the only defense a driver has, to get the people out of the way.

Q: Have you ever hit something or somebody?

A: Most of our accidents are brushed, [passersby] walking near the line and they brush their elbow or something like that. Never [something] serious.

Q: What would make a passenger angry?

A: Waiting too long for a tram car, not getting off when they put their hands up. They want to get off and maybe [the driver] bypassed it for a block or two. They'll come to me and complain about it, and I handle all those problems.

Q: Do a lot of people try to get on without paying?

A: Not a lot, but some. Some of them say, "I did pay." Well, the tram is $3 per person each way. We have a northbound and a southbound. They seem to think that $3 covers both directions.

Q: Where would we find you eating on your lunch break?

A: In the . . . Original Hot Spot at Cedar Avenue and the Boardwalk.

Q: What do you get there?

A: Sausage and peppers with onions.

Q: What is your favorite memory from your time here?

A: My favorite memory of the boardwalk is the races we had between [Thomas] "Cozy" Morley and Al Alberts, two [entertainers]. They raced 16th Street down to 23d. It was $5 a ride, and it went to their charity. Al Alberts always won because I gave him the fastest engine.

Q: What do you do in the winter?

A: I usually go to Florida, if possible - go down there and relax. Or else I drive [my four] grandkids around.

Q: What draws you back every year?

A: I like the job very much. I like the boardwalk, I enjoy the people. I act as an ambassador. I answer many questions about restaurants and what have you. People come back year after year, and if they don't see me, they'll stop a tram car and say, "Where's that Giggy at?"


afichera@philly.com

856-779-3917

@AJFichera

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|