Traveling with kids was easier by bus

Published 12:31 am Saturday, March 25, 2017

If you were around in the late 1950s, you might remember the Greyhound Lines slogan that appeared on television commercials, billboards, magazine ads, and radio spots: “Go Greyhound. Leave the driving to us.”

I did just that several times when my husband was stationed at Fort Jackson, S.C., and we lived in Columbia, S.C. When I got a little homesick to see my parents who lived in the Birmingham area, our young son and I boarded a Greyhound in Columbia, S.C., bound for Atlanta. We finished the last half of our trip riding a similar Greyhound to Birmingham. We followed the slogan and traveled Greyhound again on our return home to South Carolina.

These days, things have changed. Most people choose to drive their own vehicles when they travel. We zip along on interstate highways, missing scenic routes and small towns. Some of us have forgotten, or never knew, how much we depended on buses and trains to get us where we wanted to go.

During World War II, hundreds of service members filled bus stations and train terminals awaiting transportation home or back to stations. Despite billboards addressed to civilians asking, “Is this trip necessary,” trains and buses were also needed to transport the general public. Seats filled to capacity. Young uniformed men sat and slept in the aisles or hung on to hand straps as the wheels turned round on buses and powerful trains rumbled across the countryside.

During those years, my mother and I went to Panama City, Fla., from Birmingham by Greyhound, changing buses in Dothan. Mother held me in her lap as we crowded into one seat in jam-packed buses. Leaning against her, I was lulled to sleep by the vibration of the bus and the roar of the tires. Behind us, a serviceman from New York and a Southern grandmother chatted.

As far as I can recollect, people were congenial and lined up without pushing to enter the bus. Apparently, they were sympathetic to each other’s situations. Some went out of their way to be nice to a mother with a small child in hand and a bearded sailor who looked as if he could use a few days’ sleep.

After the war, my mother actually put me on a Greyhound to Dothan. She trusted the driver to see that I changed to the proper bus en route to Panama City. Can you imagine that in today’s world?

In later years when I traveled Greyhound, I found it a little easier to get on board at night with our son. He slept all the way to Atlanta, but during the early morning layovers, he perked right up from the bustle and bright lights in the station. I was so drowsy I could hardly hold my eyes open. It took him a long time to get to sleep on the ride to Birmingham.

Leaving the driving to Greyhound was far easier than driving myself with a wide-awake bundle of energy in tow.


Nina Keenam is retired from the newspaper business. Her column appears on Saturdays.