THE MOORE THINGS CHANGE – Road travelled (1)
OUR TRANSPORT SYSTEM, from the days of multiple concessionaires to the present era of the Government-run Transport Board and the minibus and ZR ownership, has always made a strong imprint on Barbadian folk consciousness.
From what old Barbadians fondly recall as the “fly”, to the present well appointed, even air-conditioned, coaches, public transport has always captured the imagination of village boys, our poets and other chroniclers of our folklore. These days a disproportionate amount of public transport is attracted to the noisy vulgarity borrowed from other places.
(Congratulations to the principal of Coleridge and Parry School for insisting last week that his students remove the graffiti they scrawled on a bus. I don’t know why THE NATION hid their faces.)
The first minibuses were known as pickups?
Those crude and risky contraptions contained two long seats running the full length of the platform behind the driver’s cabin of a converted van and a third middle bench precariously bolted to the floor. They transported just about everything from pensioners to poultry, from schoolchildren to sugar cane.
Recently, I heard a driver scold a senior citizen who politely inquired: “Sonny, where is this pickup going?” The feisty chauffeur snapped: “Pappy, dis en nuh pickup . . . dis is a minibus!”
Inspectors nowadays enjoy a better image, although it is doubtful if drivers of old would dare ignore instructions as I hear happens on occasions.
They have graduated to today’s status from “checkers”, and before that, “spies”.
Soon after the Transport Board came into being, the new agency imported a fleet of Mercedes-Benzes. The early Mercs were dreams: those bulbous blue and cream buses, with their plush upholstery, were adored for their equally smooth ride.
I drove to Connell Town, Pie Corner and Northumberland many a Sunday afternoon just to enjoy the long ride from the Lower Green, with Mr Walrond at the wheel.
The drivers were folk heroes. Every district had its favourites. Mr Bishop proudly piloted G 397 – nicknamed by the boys around Taitt Hill, St George, as “The Zant” – through the hills of St George,
and enjoyed the esteem of any role model.
Carlton Murray, reliable, dapper, competent,
ruled the roost along Highway 7, driving for General Bus Company; there was Mr Croney, the only white man I recall driving buses, for Madame Ifill’s fleet Central, which plied the Bridgetown, Fontabelle, Deacon’s Road, Westbury route. Every boy with a clammy cherry roller tried to emulate the confident skills of Mr Waterman, a portly driver at Mrs Weatherhead’s Liberty Bus Company.
Thanks to reminiscences from my friend retired Anglican Dean Canon William Dixon, there were no fewer than eight companies in the St Michael parish alone. Of course, all buses set out from Bridgetown.
The National Bus Company traversed Baxter’s Road, Barbarees Hill, through Eagle Hall on to Highway 1 (Black Rock Main Road), ending at Payne’s Bay.
The Yonkers’ route included Bank Hall Main Road, through Eagle Hall on to Tudor Bridge, then Spooner’s Hill, White Hall, Cave Hill, Husband’s to Thorpe’s Corner.
The Lincoln Bus Company plied Roebuck Street, Hindsbury Road, Station Hill, Bush Hall and Bank Hall Cross Road.
The Liberty Bus Company travelled along Martindale’s Road, Lower Collymore Rock, Britton’s Hill and Club Morgan.
The Progressive Bus Company catered to the passengers along Bay Street, Beckles’ Road, Dalkeith, the Garrison, Dayrell’s Road and Golf Club. This company’s fleet was among the most meticulously kept.
The Diamond Bus Company held sway along Roebuck Street, Tweedside Road, Government Hill, Two Mile Hill, St Barnabas and Mapp Hill.
My Lord’s Hill Bus Company ran along Roebuck Street, Tweedside Road, Fairfield Road, Welches, My Lord’s Hill, Howell’s Cross Road, and The Ivy.
The Central Bus Company did the Cheapside-Fontabelle-Westbury run, turning around at the top of Deacon’s Road.
In Part 2, I will touch briefly on the routes, colours and general livery of other concessionaires whose buses plied the several routes across the island.
Carl Moore was the first Editor of THE NATION and is a social commentator. Email [email protected]