It was 5, 5:30 in the morning. Sun was coming up over the Coast Mountains the Friday before Labour Day in 1981. My friend Andrew and I had gotten a couple of hours of sleep.
The voice announced over the system “NEW WESTMINSTER” – though, really, not too loudly because there were people still asleep. Still, it was enough to roust me.
“Andrew, we’re here, New West,” I said to my pal. Andrew and I met in high school in 1979 and became instant friends. We had graduated in June and here we were, the two of us, leaving our lives behind in Vernon and about to start college life in the big city. Andrew studying law at UBC, me studying broadcasting at BCIT. We’re still friends to this day. He’s a lawyer, I’m a reporter.
Andrew rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, looked out the window and said, “This isn’t New Westminster,” and closed his eyes again.
“But big guy,” I replied. “The driver said it’s New West.”
“It’s not,” Andrew, the straight-A student, said after another glance out the window.
After Andrew’s reassurance, I still didn’t feel comfortable. As the driver rolled on, I looked out the window past a dozing Andrew and there, on the dock of the New Westminster Greyhound station, were the worldly possessions of Andrew and I.
“STOP THE BUS, THIS IS OUR STOP,” I yelled, waking everybody on the bus, including Andrew, and the two of us raced from near the back of the bus out the Greyhound door to a chorus of blue language to collect our luggage. We were both awake and alert now after our all-night bus ride through the Hope-Princeton Highway – no Coquihalla in 1981.
I was reminded of this and many other stories when word came out Thursday, May 13, that Greyhound Canada was shutting down all of its remaining bus routes in Canada, permanently, after going a full year without revenue.
The legendary bus carrier pulled out of Western Canada in 2018. Greyhound Canada has been in operation in one form or another for more than 100 years.
I didn’t have a car at college, so Greyhound was my way of getting home to Vernon for holidays. Usually, all-night trips which included fantastic food at Greyhound depots in Princeton and Penticton, and a between-there stop on the side of the road to drop off parcels in Hedley.
Same was true when I moved north to begin my radio career in Quesnel. I’ve never been a fan of winter driving, so going home at Christmas I’d take the all-night bus which left Quesnel at 2 a.m. I’d usually have a fantastic hamburger and fries at the Quesnel depot before boarding. The Quesnel depot was always great to go to after a night of clubbing and the munchies struck.
In Kamloops, on a bus changeover, I got on a newer model that had video terminals and would show movies, similar to airplanes. I remember pulling into Vernon and telling my brother, who was there to pick me up, to head to Lake Country and get me there because the movie – Peggy Sue Got Married – wasn’t over and I wanted to see how it ended.
Memories of cigarette smoke haze over the seats as you could smoke on the bus. Memories of some nice, beautiful, and weird strangers who sat beside me on nearly full buses. Memories of some great conversations that helped while away the hours on the ‘iron lung.’ At the time, for me, it was a safe, inexpensive way to travel.
That’s all that’s left now, memories. Thanks, Greyhound. You played a big part in this boy’s life.
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