An older streetcar turns the corner from Pennsylvania Avenue onto 14th Street on the last day of trolleys in the District on Jan. 27, 1962. (Richard Darcey/The Washington Post)
Columnist

“Tilly the Trolley and Billy the Bus” is not quite “Triumph of the Will,” but it’s a propaganda film all the same.

If the message of “Triumph” was that Nazis were invincible, “Tilly” had a simpler theme, and one that’s strangely familiar today: Move to the back of the bus to make room at the front. Step away from the doors after boarding the streetcar.

The 10-minute movie was made in 1943 by the Capital Transit Co., the company that ran the District’s streetcars and buses. The short will be shown this Memorial Day weekend at the National Capital Trolley Museum as part of an exploration of transit during World War II.

Ken Rucker, president of the museum, said they came across a 16mm print of the movie more than 20 years ago and added it to their collection. It’s a delightful little black-and-white film, with jaunty period music and narration.

Illustrations of the titular anthropomorphic vehicles are shown, along with footage of Capital Transit employees maintaining the fleet and some nice shots of the District from 75 years ago.

A view of a trolley streetcar traveling along Connecticut Avenue near Dupont, circa 1933. (Washington Post archives)

Tilly and Billy, the narrator says, “have a tough job, but they never seem to get tired. You see, they’re playing their part in the war effort. And they play a big part in America’s march to victory.”

That’s what the film was all about. The population of Washington swelled during World War II. Fuel rationing made it difficult to gas up your private car. More and more people had to ride public transit.

Some people didn’t know how. “Tilly the Trolley and Billy the Bus” was an attempt to teach them the importance of stepping away from the doors and paying the fare with exact change.

Around the same time, the Kansas City Public Service Co. produced its own film: “Ten Seconds to Go.” It will also be shown this weekend at the Trolley Museum.

“The common element between the two is that both companies are reacting to the reality of wartime needs and trying at the same time to get their customers to act a certain way,” Ken said. The Kansas City film was also aimed at transit employees, exhorting them to work harder and safer.

The only thing missing from these movies is an admonition not to manspread or to play your audio device without headphones.

If you Google around, you can find “Tilly the Trolley” online. You can also find a little bit of corporate propaganda called “Going Places.”

“It is an absolute hoot,” Ken said of that 14-minute film, made in 1952 by General Electric to encourage public transit — ideally powered by electricity.

“We’ve been trying to move traffic, when the basic intent is to move people,” the narrator explains. “We must move people or our cities will be strangled.”

Said Ken: “It’s still that way. You look at it and shake your head. Most of it was shot in Los Angeles, which is still choked in traffic.”

The National Capital Trolley Museum is open weekends from noon to 5 p.m. and selected Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s open Memorial Day, too. “Tilly the Trolley and Billy the Bus” will be shown Saturday through Monday at 12:50 p.m. and 2:10 p.m., followed by “Ten Seconds to Go” at 1:30 and 3:30.

Museum admission is $7 adults, $5 children and seniors. For information, visit www.dctrolley.org or call 301-384-6088.

Bye bye, birdie

There’s no easy way to say this: One day there was a cardinal chick in the nest outside our dining room window. The next day, there wasn’t.

The baby bird — more a toddler — was nowhere near fledgling, so I suspect something got it in the night. A crow? A snake?

With the chick gone, the parents no longer hang around the bush, a sad state of affairs that has cast a somber pall over the Kelly household. I’d been hoping to chronicle the little feathered family, but Nature had other ideas.

Nature often does, a reminder that each day we’re not eaten by a snake — literally or figuratively — is one to cherish.

Out ridin’ fences …

Judy Tinelli was among the readers who emailed me after my recent column on Georgetown’s Desperado’s and the Wax Museum in Southwest. She’d been racking her brain trying to remember what club was in the M Street NW space before it became Desperado’s.

Well, here’s the list: It was Smoky’s, then Groovy’s, then Casablanca, then Apple Pie and then Desperado’s.

Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.