Leave the driving to us

In the 1950s, parades of farm girls made weekly pilgrimages home on Greyhound motor coaches

When I frequented First Avenue, it wasn’t purple. It wasn’t a nightclub. And Prince was a royal title.

Back then, the distinctively curved black building at 701 First Ave. N. housed the Minneapolis Greyhound Bus Depot. And I could be found there almost every Friday afternoon.

As one of many small-town girls who had moved to Minneapolis for work after high school graduation, I didn’t own a car.

None of us owned cars — or even thought of it then, in the late 1950s. Hence, we relied on the bus to bring us home on weekends to visit our families.

The Friday afternoon drill was hectic, and always the same: Trudge through downtown, lugging a suitcase, heading for the bus depot. Stand in line at the ticket counter. Visit the ladies restroom (usually asking a perfect stranger to watch my bag until I came out).

And, finally, file into the loading area with all the other passengers, board a sleek, blue and white motor coach and scramble for a window seat.

Making our way home

As the driver navigated out into traffic, a so whooshing sound came from the exhaust that somehow seemed comforting. Once we were beyond the loop, headed south and cruising down Wayzata Boulevard, I began to relax.

The familiar Prudential “rock” Building appeared on the left, and farther down the road, McCarthy’s Supper Club.

A sign for Tyrol Hills, a new housing development, was intriguing. Years later, I made a trip there and discovered an idyllic setting of charming small homes and sloping tree-filled yards.

Shakopee was the first of eight stops along the 120-mile trip. About midway, I’d begin to get fidgety.

My office attire of skirt and blouse and nylon hose felt uncomfortable. I wondered if I kicked off my high heels, whether I could get them on again at trip’s end.

But mostly, the bus ride home was pleasant. The seats were cushy and easy to recline. Fellow passengers usually were friendly.

And at Christmas, everyone was in a festive mood. The overhead racks were packed with colorful wrapped gifts. Someone usually started a chorus of Jingle Bells, with everyone else joining in.

A parade of girls

Good Age reader Barbara Slettedahl Gertsema, who regularly bussed home to Granite Falls, recounted another delightful aspect of these trips: “On any given Friday afternoon, there would be a parade of young farm girls, suitcase in one hand and empty egg cartons in the other, heading for the bus depot.”

This “parade” became so familiar to the traffic cop at 7th and Nicollet, he would tease the girls, saying, “Bring back eggs!”

“The depot was always busy,” Barbara continued. “The bus drivers were all smartly dressed in their uniforms, slim and trim and well mannered. We felt safe with this ‘Dad’ figure guiding our bus.”

Parents then also felt secure about putting their young children on a bus, alone, for a long cross- state trip.

In retrospect, the ’50s were the heyday of bus travel in America. A safe, comfortable ride — a Norman Rockwell image.

Carol Hall lives in Woodbury. She’s a longtime freelance writer, a University of Minnesota graduate and a former Northwest Airlines stewardess. Writer her at [email protected].