Eye Candy: Greyhound celebrates its centennial with historic bus tour

America’s demand for steel meant things were booming in the early 20th Century on northern Minnesota’s iron-rich Mesabi Range.

Photos by Larry Edsall

America’s demand for steel meant things were booming in the early 20th Century on northern Minnesota’s iron-rich Mesabi Range. New towns were being built for miners and their families, as were businesses to supply their needs.

In Hibbing, Andy Anderson and Charles Wenberg opened a Hupmobile car dealership. One way to showcase their seven-seat motorcar was to provide rides to nearby communities, for which they charged 15 cents. Wenberg soon wearied of driving duties and sold his share in the fledgling Hibbing Transportation Company to Carl Eric Wickman. It wasn’t long before the company enfolded Ralph Bogan’s taxi service and ordered two new truck chassis, atop which it mounted bus bodies.

During 2014, Greyhound Bus Lines, which traces its history to the Hibbing Transportation Company, has been celebrating its centennial by sending two groups of historic buses on a national tour. The Southern tour visited Phoenix last weekend and is in Las Vegas on December 13. The Northern tour is in San Francisco that weekend. December 20-21, all the buses will be back in Los Angeles, where Greyhound maintains its historic fleet.

Why LA? Greyhound headquarters — originally in Duluth, and then Chicago and Phoenix and, since 1987 — are in Dallas, but the historic fleet is based in LA because the vehicles frequently are used by Hollywood movie studios.

In addition to the historic buses, each of the tours includes a modern bus that has been turned into a rolling museum of Greyhound history.

Inside the rolling museum, you can learn all three versions of what started as Hibbing, which operated under various names in various geographic locations, became Greyhound in the late 1920s:

  1. A fleet of new buses had been painted gray.
  2. Someone said the reflection of those buses in a cafe window reminded them of a racing greyhound dog.
  3. Bus-maker Fageol gave the president of Safety Motor Coach Lines, one of the Hibbing carriers, a greyhound dog in gratitude for the order of new rolling stock.

Greyhound became a national carrier in the early 1930s (some buses even were equipped with sleeper compartments) and was the designated transportation provider for the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair. In 1935, the company commissioned industrial designer Raymond Loewy to create the now-familiar greyhound emblem for the sides of the company’s buses.

One panel in the rolling museums is devoted to the company’s role in the 1961 Freedom Rides to Washington, D.C.

Other fascinating facts found within the rolling museum:

  • After World War II, Greyhound commissioned Loewy and aviator Igor Sikorsky to design a 14-passenger, helicopter-based Air Bus.
  • In the late 1970s, Saudi Arabia commissioned Greyhound to create a fleet of 221 specially modified buses (to deal with extremely high temperatures) to transport workers to and from the oil fields.
  • It was in 1957 when the company adapted the advertising slogan that suggested to people, “Take the bus and leave the driving to us.”

 

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