On the buses


Buses, I love buses. They're like big boys toys. I think I must have been denied toys as a kid. I never got that red Dinky Toy bus, that was the problem as sure as eggs.

We had started the Light and Power Co. youth group in my first Parish at Helensburgh, a mining town South of Sydney, Australia. The hall was full of kids. I even had to buy a megaphone to make myself heard. Three pinball machines were in full operation with the usual blues over who's turn it was. The shop was getting out all those nourishing foods like Mars Bars and Smith's Chips, and so we were rageing. The only problem was transport. How to move the crowd on outings, that was the worry.

At the time I held rock solid to the idea that God had the whole world in his hand, including my mad schemes. That's how the song goes, anyway. We had been for a trip up the Blue Mountains, and there parked on the side of the road was a thirteen seater minibus. It had to be a sign. God had planted it there, and it was only $500. A steal (in more ways than one). I was now the proud owner of a J2 Mini Bus. All I can say is that it was the greatest load of rubbish I have ever owned. It had as much go as slug on dry concrete. The body was shot and the engine on its last legs. You virtually sat on the engine and couldn't hear yourself think over 80 km/h. It was a nightmare. The Lord's gift to me. "Thank you mate"....

The old J2 handled the local trips to roller skating, Luna Park and the like, but on long trips, that was another matter. On one occasion the brakes failed, on another the genie gave out, and on another the Carbie blocked up. I think there was more rust in the fuel tank than petrol at times. The thing was a monster, but yet we always seemed to get there and get back. It was painful, suffering even, a kind of cross to bear. Yet it was as if the Lord had decided to become Transport Officer of the Light and Power Co. We always just made it. And here's another interesting thing. Whenever we went out on an outing we always seemed to have enough seats for bodies. Was he also the Booking Officer?

Getting a bigger bus, that's what I always wanted and I was sure the Lord wanted it too. Something with a bit of power and a good turn of speed. Something with lots of seats so the Lord wouldn't have to give some of the kids the flue to keep them away from the outings. I finally conned the Church Committee into going along with the idea. The kids were right behind it, and even raised some of the funds to buy it. So, with $2000 in hand we bid for an old Government bus and got it. Top speed 60 km/h, drank diesel like it was out of fashion, but it sure had allot of seats. A man must be mad.

Well, the rotten thing only lasted a year. I was always on the back of the other leader about their driving. "Watch that change". "Don't overrev". I was driving it back one night from an outing and the oil light started to come on just down from the Ampol service station. We made it to the turnoff and then the engine seized. Out hopped the crew and we pushed it, and rolled it, down to the Church. Dead and done for, but the Transport officer had done his work. He had got us home. "Thank you Lord for traveling mercies". Mind you, he could have stopped the engine from seizing up. $2000 down the drain.

The Presbyterians at Engadine had this Double Decker bus. I had always wanted a Double Decker bus and there it was. Must be a sign, the hand of the Lord. He's done it again, thank you Transport Officer. I got it back to the Burgh, mind you, we did rip out some overhanging branches and wore a bit of the sheath off a few live wires, but we had it. Now, of course, what to do with it. Most of the seats had been ripped out, she had a top speed of 30 m/h, or infinity in Angel gear. The water pump was shot and instead of stopping on a penny it needed a hundred yards. (It was too old for metric). I started to get these visions of the mob hanging out of the back platform and swinging on the monkey bar. The Transport Officer would be stretched with his traveling mercies, I thought to myself. So I sold it, a genuine 1947 Albion Double Decker bus. I loved it, even though it was totally useless. Mad as a meat axe - to buy it, not sell it.

Twice bitten once shy. This time, with $2500 in hand, I went off to get a bigger and better bus, and yes, ended up with another ex Government ERT. This time it had a 6.8 ratio diff, top speed 55 k/h. A man is mad. Why didn't the Transport Officer see that we got a decent one? A better diff cost $800 and it was still a slug. Anyway it lasted a year like the first one. Coming home from an outing, and yes I was driving again, the engine seized up about a mile from home. It was dead and gone again. Still, we did have enough seats for all the bodies and we did get home safely. The Transport Officer had done his job again.

I wonder who was behind it all? Take your choice, it was either a demented clergyman or a God with a strange sense of humour. I haven't got a bus anymore - thank you Lord.

[Pumpkin Cottage]