And Now You Know: Orange City Council takes stand on taxis

Published 12:01 am Saturday, February 12, 2022

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Mike Louviere
And Now You Know

In 1953, Orange had a shopping district downtown that included Fifth Street from Green Avenue to Division Street and several blocks east and west of Fifth Street on Front Street. There was a public bus service and four taxi companies that provided transportation for those needing to go about the Orange area.

Mrs. Andrew Denino was the owner of the Diamond Cab Company. She had not paid the fees to keep her company in operation and was asking the city to allow her permit to be reinstated and allow her company to operate her cabs once again. She had paid the necessary fees and was waiting on the council to decide if they were going to issue her a new permit.

There had been a meeting scheduled on February 17 to discuss the issue, but due to the absence of a one council member there had been no decision made.

Another meeting was scheduled on February 19 to make a ruling on her request that another cab company be allowed to operate in the city.

In this meeting John W. Gibson, the owner of the Yellow Cab Company presented evidence that the drivers of the Yellow Cab and Checker Cab companies only averaged about $5.60 per day in earnings. This sum was after they spilt their fees 50/50 with the cab company owners.

In this discussion cab drivers were accused of “Having a little larceny in their hearts.” There was no way that accurate accounting of fees taken in per day could be recorded.

Joe Mazzagate, speaking for the Diamond Cab Company, and a former cab driver told the council, “There’s an old saying that if you’re not a thief, you are not a cab driver.”

He then explained, “It is impossible for a cab driver to turn in half their daily take and still make a living. The drivers turn in all they can but keep for themselves what they must keep to earn a living.”

He said the practice is well known by the company owners and drivers and is accepted in the business.

Gibson and Leonard Matthews, owner of the Checker Cab Company, appeared before the council to protest the issuance of any further taxi permits in Orange. They said the reason for appearing was to protect their drivers so the drivers could make a decent living.

Councilman W.J. Mullins presented a motion to postpone the issuance of additional taxi permits until business increased. He stipulated that the request by Mrs. Denino be held in abeyance until there is a need for additional service.  The motion was voted on and approved.

City Secretary Charlie Cottle was instructed to refund to Mrs. Denino the money she had paid for the permits.

Mazzagate stated he was Mrs. Denino’s spokesman for most of the session and said he was backing her business financially.

He supported the contention that drivers were making a good living. “Otherwise, they would quit and enter some other type of business. A driver might temporarily leave the cab business, but he never stays away long. If he did not make a good living he would not return.”

Gibson and Matthews blamed high operating costs for their lack of profit in the cab business. Gibson cited the rapid deprecation of the cabs, repair bills, and permit and license fees as being detrimental to the business. He offered to show the council his complete business books.

Gibson said if there was a need for additional cabs, he would be running 16 instead of 13 cabs. He had 16 permits but only used 13 on a regular basis. He used two others on weekends and had one he did not use. “I would be using all 16 if there was enough business,” he said.

Mazzagate showed the council figures which showed there could be a good profit in the cab business. “I don’t blame Gibson and Matthews for not wanting competition, it’s a good business and they have full control at present,” he said.

Councilman Howard Peterson said it was the duty of the council to determine if there was a need for additional cabs. Peterson produced figures from the Texas League of Municipalities which showed cities the size of Orange normally have one cab per 1,000 citizens. He said most cities the size of Orange have four cab companies.

Orange at that time had four cab companies and 23 permits active. The council felt there was no need to issue permits for another cab company to operate in the city.

“And now you know.”