It was 1963 when I joined the ranks of hundreds of thousands of other Americans and took the Greyhound bus for the first time. It was a pretty big deal.
You see, I had noticed the colorful advertisements in LIFE magazine and the billboard signs along the highway telling us about a shiny bus that could take people to many destinations and cities. Advertisements featured the Scenicruiser with an upper deck and its own bathroom. I was determined to sit on the upper level and next to the window.
And so it came to pass, on my 10th birthday “we were taking the Greyhound.” My mother and I would take the bus to Minneapolis to visit my sister Joanne, who lived and worked as a registered nurse in the big city.
I remember the trip like it was yesterday, not only because it was my first visit to the Foshay Tower and Minnehaha Falls, but because I was riding that silver bus, and I was riding with a window seat. I’m not sure if I was actually on the Scenicruiser with the upper deck that I dreamed about, but for embellishment purposes of MY Greyhound story, I am on that particular vintage model.
We boarded the bus in Evansville at the DS Station on the corner off of County Rd 82. I would guess that the DS Station was like every small town Greyhound bus depot in the country. What I knew for certain, it was the only bus station that existed in my world. My dad dropped us off and, as we boarded the bus, I remember waving an apprehensive good-bye. After all, I was leaving the safety of everything I knew and embarking on quite a journey. My mom and I settled in, and as we passed through Brandon, Garfield, Alexandria, and beyond, we stopped often. People got on and people got off. The driver of the big silver bus did his job. You see, this was before the I-94 days had reached our territory. In 1963 there was no straight, nonstop interstate trip between Evansville and Minneapolis. We were on a two-lane highway.
We reached the Greyhound bus station in Minneapolis, and it was huge. How my sister Jo was able to find us and pick us up is beyond me. That station was nothing like the DS in Evansville. There were lots of people, and I didn’t know any of them.
Nope, I wasn’t in Evansville anymore.
Today, as I reminisce about that monumental trip, I realize that there were lots of people just like mom and I who took the bus simply because the fare was affordable, the small-town depots were nearby, the big-city depot accommodated many, and Greyhound could move the masses of the working class simply by making it fairly easy for all people to access the ticket and the ride. And that, quite simply, is how Greyhound got its start in the first place.
You might be surprised to learn that the birthplace of Greyhound is Hibbing, Minn., home of the world’s largest open-pit mine. And it’s a pretty cool story.
A Swedish immigrant by the name of Carl Wickman came to the United States in 1905. He worked in a mine as a drill operator in Alice, Minn., until he was laid off. In 1913 Wickman paid $3,000 to open a Goodyear Tire/Hupmobile car franchise in Hibbing. The only sale he made was to himself.
He did learn one important fact as he tried to sell Hupmobiles and Goodyear tires. Most iron workers were too poor to afford their own vehicle, so Wickman decided to use the only car sale he had made (to himself) by transporting workers between Hibbing and Alice, another mining town two miles away, by cramming 15 passengers into his eight-seat “touring car.” He charged 15 cents a ride.
On his first trip, in 1914, Wickman collected a grand total of $2.25. He was 27 years old. Through the years his business changed names, added partners, lost partners, suffered huge losses during the Great Depression and rebounded with a rich history. Wickman retired as president of the Greyhound Corporation in 1946, being replaced by his longtime partner Orville S. Caesar. Wickman died at the age of 66 in 1954, but more than 100 years after cramming 15 men into his touring car, that modest sum of $2.25 had grown into nearly a billion dollars in annual revenue.
There’s lots of Greyhound history in between then and now, including perhaps your own. Then…and now.
Based on Raymond Loewy’s original design, General Motors built 1,001 Scenicruisers between 1954 and 1956 for Greyhound to show the world how great an American bus can be. According to the company history of Greyhound bus, the Scenicruiser might be the image that most recall when they think of the Greyhound bus and its aluminum siding with the greyhound dog. The Scenicruiser was the mainstay of the fleet for over 10 years.
Formerly located at today’s 106 County Road 82 in Evansville, the Direct Service Station/Café was owned by Clarence and Fern Olson. Clarence managed the station (Evansville’s first three-pump gas station) and repair shop while Fern managed the lunch room.
On June 29, 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. The bill created a 41,000-mile “National System of Interstate and Defense Highways” that would, according to Eisenhower, eliminate unsafe roads, inefficient routes, traffic jams and all of the other things that got in the way of “speedy, safe, transcontinental travel.” At the same time, highway advocates argued, “in case of atomic attack on our key cities, the road net (would) permit quick evacuation of target areas.” For all these reasons, the 1956 law declared that the construction of an elaborate expressway system was “essential to the national interest.”
The new Northland-Greyhound Bus Depot opened for business in February 1937. When it was built, the depot was widely acclaimed for its streamlined art deco style and modern luxuries. Called one of the most “modernistic” and beautiful travel centers in America, the bus depot boasted such luxuries as public telephones, shower rooms, and air conditioning. In 1968, the original Greyhound bus depot relocated, and the following year, Allan Fingerhut, Minneapolis native and heir to the Fingerhut catalog fortune, saw potential for a rock club. The old depot building was opened as The Depot in 1970, and today, the club is known as First Avenue.
The Hupmobile was an automobile built from 1909 through 1939 by the Hupp Motor Car Company. The first model, the Hupp 20, was introduced at the 1909 Detroit automobile show and was an instant success. Robert Craig (Bobby) Hupp, a former employee of Oldsmobile and Ford, founded the company with investors.
Sources: https://jalopnik.com/the-greyhound-scenicruiser-was-filled-with-the-american; https://www.hemmings.com/magazine/hmn/2010/01/Greyhound-Scenicruiser/2599911.html; Evansville, Minnesota 1881 – 2006 – The Way We Were-The Way We Are.; awww.history.com/topics/interstate-highway-system; first-avenue.com/history; amazon.com/Greyhound-Minneapolis-Minnesota-Original-Vintage; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hupmobile; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greyhound_Lines collections.mnhs.org/MNHistoryMagazine/articles/49/v49i08p310-321; Tracing the hound: The Minnesota roots of the Greyhound Bus Corporation by Margaret Walsh.