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180108 January 8, 2018

Huntsville Bus Station in Fifties

Leave the Driving to Us
Tommy Towery
LHS '64

  While visiting the Nashville grandkids over the holidays we found some disharmony between the two girls in high school. The issue was the transportation method of upcoming school trips. The younger one was upset because her class is scheduled to fly to Washington D.C. and the older one was going to get to go by bus. One would think the issue would be reversed, with the older one being upset over having to go by bus and not getting to fly, but oh no! 

Of course the Class of ’64 is still upset because our senior trip was a trip to the Madison County Health Department and not a classical trip to Washington, as our older siblings made. We were never really offered a good explanation why we were not allowed to take the traditional coming-of-age trip, but many felt the pressing issue of the upcoming integration issue played a major part of the thought process.

But this is not a story about the never-accomplished school trip, but instead I would like to concentrate more on the transportation of our times – and in particular bus trips. Travel by bus, rather than plane or train was the normal for most of our generation if my memories are right. I know it was for my family, primarily because of the low cost of bus travel over any other method.  My most often destination during high school was Memphis, especially after my brother was stationed there once he joined the Navy, and because my mother had moved there after she married my step-father who was as electrician with a Memphis based company temporarily working in Huntsville on Von Braun’s office out on Redstone Arsenal.

Specifically , my most memorable bus trip was the one I made in July of 1960 as a Boy Scout travelling to Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the 5th National Jamboree. At the time I was living on Hart Drive in West Huntsville, having just graduated from the eighth grade at Huntsville Junior High and not looking forward to starting the ninth grade in West Huntsville. My family could not afford to pay my way to the Jamboree, but the good members of the Huntsville Kiwanis Club somehow selected me to be the one they sponsored for the very expensive trip at the time. My family gave me $25 spending money for the entire two-week trip. 

The schedule called for a three day bus trip from Huntsville to Colorado Springs, and included a caravan of three buses full of Scouts. We met very early in the morning at the Huntsville Trailways Bus Station to begin our trip. My scoutmaster, Lucky Sandlin, had promised to meet me there that morning and loan me one of his good cameras to take pictures on the trip, but never showed up and I departed that morning without a method of documenting the trip save a journal I had previously purchased. Later on in the trip I bought a $3.00 Kodak Brownie box camera and took about seven rolls of film on the trip. Upon my return, the same scoutmaster - who had a side job of professional photographer - took the film and promised to develop and print them for me, but only succeeded in loosing all but one roll of the film, which I finally got from him over a year later.

I won’t go into too many details, since the journal is stored safely away at home and I do not have access to it at the time, but will recall got you the trip the as best I can. The buses we used were chartered from Trailways and I really cannot remember if they even had onboard toilets, but feel they must have. We sat two per row per side of the bus and even though we were excited about the upcoming activities, most of us slept during the first hours of the trip. I remember our first stop was for lunch in Memphis and we were allowed to wander away from the downtown bus station while the bus was serviced. I don’t remember where, but I and a few friends found a place to eat and enjoyed walking around looking at the “big city” and all the downtown stores, including a real magic shop.

Our first night was spent in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, sleeping in a gymnasium somewhere. The next day we drove through Oklahoma City and were amazed at the working oil wells we passed. Activities on the bus were not memorable, but I seem to remember reading and swapping volumes of MAD magazines, Boy’s Life, and comic books – all of which must be collector’s items today.

The next night was spent in Amarillo, Texas, and the most memorable item of sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor of another gym was the size of the Texas mosquitoes. Several of us bought cowboy hats while there, and I remember mine being an aqua colored one - on sale because of the non-manly color I am convinced. The next day we visited Capulin Volcano National Monument, a U.S. National Monument located in northeastern New Mexico that protects and interprets an extinct cinder cone volcano that is part of the Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field. We were allowed to climb around the volcano for a while and then herded back aboard the buses for the final leg of the trip, arriving at the site of the Jamboree in time to pitch the tents which would be our new homes for the duration of the Jamboree.

While at the Jamboree, which I may expand on in a future issue, we made a couple of side trips like to the Royal Gorge and an Indian Reservation, which were also by bus. The road back home was by the same route previously taken, but a lot more sleeping took place since it was once-travelled territories aided by the fact we were exhausted as a result of the seemingly un-interrupted schedule of physical activities to which we had been subjected throughout our visit.

Later in my life I took several other bus trips, but none were as long as the one I took on that 1960 trip when I was 14 years old. By today’s routes, the Jamboree site bus trip from Huntsville is still a journey of over 1,300 miles via interstate – a trip which would have been much longer in both time and distance on the road system of 1960.

So, I pose the question and hope to get several inputs from others on what were some of your own bus trip memories in your life before graduation from high school. Please email them to me. 

        Memphis, TN - I hope that in 2018 I can convince several more of you to share some stories with your classmates. It is nice to have a dedicated few who answer the call, but I know there are many more stories out there we would all enjoy hearing about. Please take this week's challenge of telling about your own personal bus memories as an opportunity to participate in our community.

    As far as I know, there are no reunions planned for 2018, so I hope to make an extra effort to attend as many of the Lee Lunch Bunch get-togethers as I can.


From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    Yearbooks

Beth McNabb Weinbaum 
LHS ‘65

    Joel graduated from Lee in 1964 and I graduated in 1965. We neither have a Silver Sabre from 1964 but would love to have one that someone might not want or need any longer. We have the CD from both years but it is not the same as having the print version. Please put out a request and get the contact information. We will take it from there.

Subject:    Death of Classmates
Chip Smoak
LHS '66

    Let us pray that God will give the friends and families of those that Tommy reminded us of last week His peace, comfort and strength during the times of trial and tribulation on the anniversaries of their passing.  Let us also keep them in our hearts and minds so that, to some degree, they continue to live.  

    They are gone too soon.