By Jim O'Leary
An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.
Jan. 28, 2002
It used to be that the Greyhound Bus Depot at Seventh and Hennepin across from the Alvin Burlesque Theater was a place to see lots of Waverlyites, especially on Friday evenings when our sons and daughters were coming home from a hard week of working in "the cities."
The announcer would call out over the loudspeaker: "Wayzata, Long Lake, Maple Plain, Delano, Montrose, Waverly, Howard Lake, Cokato, Dassel, Darwin, Litchfield, Grove City, Atwater, Kandiyohi, Willmar, and points west. All aboard."("Points west" included De Graff, Danvers, Benson, and Ortonville, where you leaped off into the wilderness of South Dakota.)
During World War II, whenever my mother and I rode the bus, everybody talked to everyone else, usually showing off pictures of husbands, sons, and sweethearts "in the war."
When the trips were over, my mother had herself a new set of pen pals and the life stories of most of our fellow passengers.
This past summer I discovered that buses are still the same, only better. Travel by bus still allows us to "see America first" and revel in its goodness.
The bus drivers have an amusing and easy way of talking with the passengers. They are better at this than airline pilots.
All the drivers were friendly and helpful, even though they have what I think is one of the world's most difficult jobs. They are like airline pilots, in that seniority counts and they get to bid on their runs.
To pick up a new driver, the bus would stop at a motel where the new driver has had some sleep and the old driver would then take over the same room, sort of like the old Pony Express days.
The poor travel by bus. The rich travel by plane. I would choose my fellow passengers on the bus any day over crabby airline passengers.
They are more friendly, and help each other. They share food and stories, recipes and newspapers. Strangers will even hold wet babies sometimes while mom catches some sleep.
Buses carry more babies than airplanes do, so I have a tip for you: Get earplugs. Blinders on your eyes are also helpful. And a pillow. And a walkman. And some good books. Try, if you can, to keep two seats to yourself.
This means you must be first in line when boarding. Hug a window seat. Pile your luggage on the aisle seat, so a person who wants to sit next to you has to beg. Pull out a rosary or read a Bible or prayer book.
This will discourage most people from wanting to sit next to you in the fear they may be evangelized for the next six hours.
One of the highlights of my trip was being with an Amish family on their way to Belize, where they were going to visit some Mennonite friends.
Another stereotype gone. Although they wore the quaint clothing and looked like medieval Germans, they were intelligent, humorous, friendly, and bright.
Since the bus trip, I have corresponded with them. They even use a typewriter, but not an electric one. They make their living farming truck gardens in Tennessee.
They are the spiritual descendants of the Anabaptists from Reformation times. They "live simply so that others may simply live."
They live in an intentional community, in voluntary poverty, because they believe that's how we are supposed to live if we believe in the Gospels. I am totally unable to find anything wrong with the logic of that.
They were 12 people in all: husband and wife, and all 10 of their children. A poster family for America.
Apart from them, there were few Anglo people on any of my buses. The whole world is speaking Spanish.
Hispanics, mostly Mexicans, are on their way to food processing plants, chicken farms, and service jobs. The bus drivers these days are mostly bilingual, giving out information in Spanish as well as English.
Like all immigrants, the Spanish-speaking passengers are hardy survivors and good-natured adapters. They love it if you try your Spanish on them even as they struggle with English.
There were some others without fluent English. A black lady and I teamed up to help a Chinese couple find their way around in the Dallas bus station. I won't soon forget their smiles and thank-yous.
I want to do it again . . . go by bus . . . and see the best of America the working poor. I find it strange that people think it is a "sacrifice" to go by bus.
It's interesting that when I was a child, a ride on a Greyhound bus was considered a luxury, and we didn't even have on-board toilets back then.
My mother would often get rides from Mumford Dray and Transfer, but when we rode by bus, we celebrated at the comfort of it all, with air conditioning and big picture windows. You could even rent pillows, at 25 cents, for the longer rides.
To this day, in most of the world, a ride on a Greyhound bus would be considered undreamed-of luxury for most of our brothers and sisters around the globe. It is still a luxury for me. Don't be surprised if I call you some day from the bus depot nearest you.
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