Ticket To Ride

Some of my favorite memories from my youth are ones of doing things on my own or with my younger brother. Going to a movie by myself, hobby store or walking to a nearby pond to catch some fish were a few things I enjoyed doing. Not having my parents tagging along and supervising me or my brother, gave us a sense of independence. You are forced to make decisions by yourself which teaches responsibility, self-reliance and confidence in yourself. I feel those things are important for any young person to experience in order to be successful in their future.

Going on an adventure by yourself as an older child or teenager, helps you learn how to set a goal; identify where you want to go and the steps needed to get there and accomplish that goal.

My favorite adventures as a youth involved traveling by bus to another town or city. I remember the first time I went all by myself. Window seats were the best. There is nothing better than watching the scenery go by. Seeing things for the first time all by myself made me feel like an adult … well sort of.

So what gave me the idea to ride a bus? I watched a Leave to Beaver episode called, “The Bus Ride” (1959). It was a story where Wally and the Beaver take a bus trip all by themselves. After watching the episode I couldn’t wait to ride a bus all by myself.

After bugging my parents they finally let me take a bus to see a cousin of mine for the weekend. For a 12 year old it was a great adventure.

The bus I rode on was a Greyhound. Any time I took a trip, one of my parents would drop me off at the local Greyhound station where I would get my own ticket, board the bus and off I would go. 

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Bus Station Jacksonville Florida 1950s

The bus company known as Greyhound Lines, Inc. was started by Carl Wickman in 1913. Wickman started the company as a way to transport miners from Hibbing, Minnesota, to Alice, Minnesota. Since there were no buses at the time, the company used large touring cars such as Studebakers and Packards, sawed in half and elongated. By 1916 the company, then known as Hibbing Transportation, had its own bus station, which was located in a firehouse.

During the 1920s Hibbing Transportation bought and merged competitors becoming the Mesaba Transportation Company. By 1930 more than 100 bus lines had been consolidated into what was called the “Motor Transit Company”. Wickman felt his company needed a new more memorable name. Catchy company names help brand a company. In many cases the name itself helps create an entrepreneurial landmark. I mean … what do think of if you hear the name Apple of Google?

Carl Wickman remembered a name one of his drivers had called a route from Superior, Wisconsin to Wausau, Wisconsin. While passing through a small town, Ed Stone, the route’s operator, saw the reflection of his 1920s era bus in a store window. The reflection reminded him of a greyhound dog so he adopted that name for that segment of the route. The name was popular so Wickman decided to name the entire bus network Greyhound.

Following a pretty rough period at the beginning of the Great Depression when Greyhound went $1 million in debt, Greyhound actually managed to flourish during the economically challenging 1930s. One thing that helped was Greyhound was named the official transport company of the 1933 World’s Fair. Greyhound was also featured prominently in the 1934 smash hit movie It Happened One Night starring Clark Gable. Those two things help boost the popularity of the company. By 1935, Greyhound was turning an annual profit in excess of $8 million. 

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Boarding Greyhound Bus 1939

To accommodate the rapid growth in bus travel, Greyhound also built many new stations in the period between 1937 and 1945, most of them in a late Art Deco style. By the outbreak of World War II, the company had over 4,750 stations and nearly 10,000 employees.

Greyhound did it’s part during WWII in America. During the war, Greyhound adopted a patriotic wartime business model, advertising itself as the patriotic way to travel. It was the carrier that transported soldiers (“This Army Moves By Greyhound”) and wartime workers and also reduced rationed oil and rubber use (“Serve America Now So You Can See America Later”). Half the drivers during the war years were women. 

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Sailors Boarding Greyhound 1943

The 1950s and early 60s ended up being the golden years for Greyhound. As America recovered and surged ahead after the war, so did Greyhound. Introduction of two new buses, “Highway Traveler” and the the most famous bus in U.S. history, the GM Scenicruiser helped spur the growth. Designed by Raymond Loewy, the 40-foot-long Scenicruiser featured a split-level design with 10 seats, a restroom (a bus first), and a storage area on the lower level, plus an additional 33 seats in the upper level. It was luxury on four wheels. Greyhound Bus Lines guided tour film

The 1956 Interstate Highway Act turned out to be good and bad for Greyhound. The act provided better, faster roads for Greyhound’s fleet to travel on. But the act also encouraged America’s rapidly growing ranks of car owners to drive themselves, beginning a long and steady decline in Greyhound’s ridership. 

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Greyhound Scenicruiser 1955

To counter a declining ridership due to the Interstate Highway Act and competition from airlines, a real dog came to the rescue.

This dog of royalty was the idea of Greyhound’s advertising department in 1957. They came up with a marketing campaign using an animal mascot name Lady Greyhound. Her TV career began as a puppy in a Greyhound TV commercial on The Steve Allen Show where she was dubbed “Steverino” on April 7, 1957. She weighed ten pounds at the time. When full grown she would weigh fifty-eight pounds and her coloring was white with a few “gold” (fawn) patches.

During her career Lady Greyhound officiated at the opening of new bus terminals by biting through a special ribbon made of dog biscuits. She traveled throughout the United States creating good public relations for The Greyhound Corporation and averaged about 25,000 miles a year. Wearing a specially made tiara, collar and coat which spelled out “Go Greyhound”.

Lady Greyhound made TV appearances and starred on the shows of Art Linkletter, Steve Allen, Jack Benny, Gary Moore and Ed Murrow; she even visited the White House. In 1963 she attended the New York World’s Fair where she had her own fashion show and handed out “pawtographs”. In 1966 she appeared in the premiere of the Disney film The Ugly Dachshund.

For nine years Lady Greyhound made advertising history as a living symbol of The Greyhound Corporation. In 1966, at the age of nine, Lady Greyhound took a well-deserved retirement and lived out her days with her manager and traveling companion Lorraine D’Essen. Lady Greyhound photo

Greyhound still prospered through the 1970s and into 1980, introducing the popular Americruiser and registering its highest-ever transportation revenue of $1.045 billion in 1980.

After 1980 Greyhound struggled. They faced the deregulation of the bus industry in 1982, seven-week strike in 1983, three-year strike that started in 1990, two bankruptcies – one in 1990 and the other in 2001, plus mergers and a few reorganizations.

In October 1998, Laidlaw Inc. announced it would acquire the U.S. operations of Greyhound Lines, Inc., including Carolina Trailways and other Greyhound affiliates, for about $470 million. On February 7, 2007, Scottish transport group FirstGroup purchased Laidlaw International for $3.6 billion.

Almost immediately after acquiring Greyhound, FirstGroup began to improve Greyhound’s image and create what it called the “New Greyhound”, by refurbishing many terminals, expanding the fleet with new buses, refurbishing old buses, and retraining customer service staff.

For instance all buses received wireless Internet access, power outlets and new leather seating with increased legroom.

Greyhound now operates 123 routes serving over 2,700 destinations across the United States. It is competing very well with low-cost airlines, Amtrak, and other intercity coach companies. 

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Greyhound Bus Today

It’s been quite a few years since I was 12, sitting on a window seat, watching the scenery go by. I really need to take a trip, sit back and take in the panoramic views.

Like a cat with nine lives or should I say a dog? … Greyhound is still rolling along.

Contributed by

Craig Francom

Craig Francom was born in San Diego California and raised in Midvale Utah. Craig had a "Leave it to Beaver" childhood. If not at the local fishing hole, camping out …

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