By Joe Darby
When’s the last time you saw a Greyhound bus on the highway? I literally cannot remember the last time I saw one, which had been a common sight on our roadways in the not too distant past.
For decades, Greyhounds and smaller lines, such as Continental Trailways, transported folks all over our country, from short intercity rides to trips stretching from one coast to another.
When I first moved from Baton Rouge to New Orleans in 1965, I went home frequently to visit family and friends, at first driving on the Airline Highway and then on I-10 when it was completed in the early 1970s. I don’t think I ever made that trip in those days without seeing at least one Greyhound bus. Sometimes two or three.
After awhile, my car at the time, a 1959 Sunbeam Alpine sports car, developed an overheating problem. I could make do around town, pulling into a service station to add water when I had to. But I couldn’t take the car on the road because I would soon boil all of the water out of my radiator. I kept putting off repairs because it needed a new cylinder head gasket and that would have set my very modest bank account back by quite a bit.
So instead of foregoing my trips to Baton Rouge, I started to take Greyhounds home on many of my days off. Mother, or a girlfriend, would meet me at the bus station and I’d be set to go for the weekend, borrowing Mother or Dad’s car to get around Baton Rouge. What I was doing was following Greyhound’s advertising slogan, which went something like this: “Take a bus. Leave the driving to us.”
The fare was very reasonable, as I recall. I think it was less than $10. And the trips were reliable and quick. I could either relax, look at the scenery (which did get old after awhile) or read a book. Sometimes there was an interesting fellow passenger in the seat next to mine. I recall one night trip with a cute, very flirty girl sitting next to me. That was one of my more interesting bus rides.
But soon I got another car, which didn’t overheat, and took leave of the good old reliable Greyhounds. But that wasn’t the end of my family’s use of the big vehicles. By the mid-1970s I had gotten married and my girls had come along. Between my young family and work, I didn’t get up to Baton Rouge as much as I had previously.
But Mother, who no longer liked to drive on the highway, wanted to see her new granddaughters as often as possible, so she would take a Greyhound down to New Orleans every few weeks. We’d pick her up at the station, of course. I’ll never forget one of my special Greyhound memories — and I know it was very special for Mother, too. We were waiting out on the platform for the Baton Rouge bus to arrive and when it did Mother stepped off. Becky, who couldn’t have been more than about 2 1/2, spotted her Nonnie, held out her little arms and ran to greet her beloved grandma, who quickly scooped her up amid hugs and kisses.
So, we had some good memories with Greyhound. But even by the 1960s and ’70s, though, intercity bus travel seemed to be in decline. Most folks did use their own cars and, to be honest, some of the passengers on the buses in those days did look a little questionable.
Things had changed. I’ve seen old Greyhound ads from the 1940s and ’50s, depicting Greyhounds serving as the transportation for folks on family vacations. The ads depicted well-dressed dads, moms and kids, taking the bus across country somewhere, perhaps to a National Park or to visit some big city they’d never seen before. For that market, however, they were competing with the still-popular railroads and with the ever-growing airliner business.
And, today? Well, like I said, you hardly ever see an intercity bus. I suppose they’re still running on some routes. But I think I’d get a kick out of seeing one, just once in a while.