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Youth isn’t always wasted on the young. Despite the witty saying of George Bernard Shaw, some young people prove remarkably wise.
That certainly holds true of Sean McCue, the 23-year-old who manages McCue’s Taxi company in Watertown. No sooner had he graduated from college last May, than he had to take over the business from his father, Robert, who had suddenly fallen ill with leukemia, a disease that soon proved fatal.
As president, Sean directs a Watertown Square company that began in the 1930s when his great-grandfather, Thomas McCue, established it. In 1945, Thomas’s son, Paul, took over the business after Army service in World War II.
Continuing the family pattern, Paul’s son, Robert, after serving in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, came home to help his father with the business. The 1970s were a time of expansion: The company acquired 14 licenses owned by Watertown Yellow Cab.
In the background, during much of this time was Sean’s mother, Mary McCue, who took care of bills, paperwork and taxes. Her son calls her “the backbone of the business” without whom the company would not be where it is today. In addition to this work, Mary McCue has been a kindergarten teacher for 33 years.
Unlike many other people his age, Sean McCue has a sharp sense of the past. Speaking of his company, he says: “It’s been in the family for four generations. I intend to carry on that legacy. That’s my father’s life work. I don’t want to do anything to harm that name.”
Sean keeps alive a vivid memory of his father. “I think of my father constantly,” he says. “I can’t go 15 minutes here without running into someone who knows him.”
According to Sean, his father responded generously to those who came to him for help. “He took care of a lot of little people, those who needed a second chance.”
Sean has inherited stories that form part of the company’s heritage. Once, in 1974, a woman with “Harvard” in crimson letters emblazoned on her sweatshirt came into the office carrying a bag crammed to the top. The contents turned out to be cash, stolen from the Watertown Savings Bank.
Robert McCue noticed what she had in the bag, but arranged a taxi for her. Then he called the police who tailed the cab and stopped it. Imagine the driver’s consternation when he saw cops approaching him with guns drawn!
Another remarkable woman is remembered for having come into the taxi office dressed conventionally but then walking down the adjoining Spring Street with nothing on except, perhaps, a smile.
And Robert recalled being confronted with a young Irishman who was visiting the country for the first time. He was staying with his brother, a Watertown resident who roomed with a friend under whose name the apartment was listed. After a late evening at a local bar, the brothers became separated, leaving the visitor with only one vague clue to his brother’s whereabouts.
At 5 a.m., Robert directed one of his cab drivers to drive the visitor on a search for “a house near the water.” Finally, they found the right house adjoining the Charles River, but not before ringing a few other doorbells.
Then there was the story of a customer who ordered a meal from Low Fat, No Fat Gourmet Café in Watertown. He wanted it delivered to his room in Boston’s Ritz Carlton Hotel. The driver dutifully picked up the food, drove to the hotel where he was told to take the package up to the customer.
Opening the door was Manny Ramirez, a Red Sox star the driver had not heard of previously. To Sean, the action qualifies as “Manny being Manny.”
These stories offer a taste of life in a suburban taxi company. “It changes every day,” says Sean. “You never know what you’ll get.”
This young company president regards himself as fortunate to have so many drivers of mature years. “My best drivers are the older ones,” claims Sean. “They know how to get in and out of Boston better than anyone else. They know the community, having seen kids grow up.”
One of them, John McKinnon, has been driving for the company for the past 45 years. At least six others have chalked up more than 20 years.
Another veteran driver, Richard Brannelly, has been there 28 years. Of his job, he says: “It’s enjoyable work. I like the customers; I like the freedom of being out.”
Sean explains his approach to employees a generation or two older: “What I have been trying to do is gain their respect and at the same time run a business and show them I know what I’m doing.”
Ken Carlson, a marketing mentor whose office is above McCue’s Taxi, agrees with his friend Sean’s self appraisal: “It’s a fine line Sean has had to walk, but I think he’s done it admirably.”
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Youth isn’t always wasted on the young. Despite the witty saying …