How did I ever become a bus driver? I go back to 1954 when I was required to do my National Service. Marching in boots was not in my mind, but fortunately I had a very bad Achilles heel after my first bash on the square. Being excused boots was just right. I volunteered as a medic and was sent to Netley Hospital for training as a Mental nursing orderly, which was good, as my home was in Southampton, about 5 miles away. While I did a 12 hour shift 5 days a week and never slept in my army bed, it was like going to work. Parades at the hospital was something I managed to avoid for my first year – how? 48 hour pass! All changed when I was posted to Cyprus and did an emergency visit to Fayed in Egypt.
But what about the ‘bus bug’?
I had to have a ride on the Fayed Military bus service in 1956, but the main attraction was my Southampton experience with Trams, Trains and buses. Having spent some time in London in the food industry, the ‘bug’ was itching and I had to do something. I went to 55 Broadway and asked about becoming a bus driver. In half an hour I had filled in a form and had a medical and given money for my bus fare to Chiswick for a driving test. I was in! One week training on driving buses, the skid patch and all, until I went with my instructor on a journey with 2 extra persons on board. After about an hour my instructor said to get out of the cab and the two men disappeared . “ You have just passed your bus driving test” We went straight away to get my licence and badge. I then had 3 days on route learning from my allocated depot at Barking. It was good to be a driver and I enjoyed the experience. Initially driving RT’s and later RM’s. In 1964 I moved to Aldershot and got a house in Halimont Road, right outside the A & D Depot. I was taken on as a driver, I had a licence but lacked one major necessity, what was that long stick with a knob on the top, in the cab! A few days practice and then I was away. I progressed and became a spare OMO with three months in the Summer on the Bognor route (19a). In 1971 I became an Inspector but the situation was getting worse in the early 80’s with bad management and the wrong people in charge. In 1980 I went to Farnham Coaches and set up Weyside Tours, but that collapsed soon after someone who was supposed to be ‘brilliant’ ousted me out. I then went to Fleet Coaches and ended my bus career there. Wanting to have a quiet time I took up a Hackney Carriage job, had my own taxi and eventually retired in 2001. But I was still interested in buses so preserving A & D buses was a chance to keep the interest going. The result is two Double deckers and currently a 1928 single decker.
The big problem in this restoration industry is that it takes a long time, whilst I was very active, at 84 it is becoming too much and I have to ease back.
But what about the trams? I was always fascinated with trams, all shapes, some open top, and just at the top of my road. The Breakdown tram was located next to my school and I remember the lines going into the woods. (they weren’t used in my time but were there for trams to hide from Air attacks.) As for trains, I lived next to Mount Pleasant Marshalling Yard, on the main line to Southampton, and saw boat trains with a few dirty shunting engines. In my days as a youth, most engines were steam or occasionally diesel but no electric trains as they could not get through the tunnel.