BUS STOP - Page 11

After Cliff left, to return to living and working in London again, I was approached by one driver who had been working with a jolly young girl in her late teens and he asked me if he could come and work with me instead. I was rather puzzled at the time as he and his former mate seemed to get on so well, but I knew he was a good driver and easy to get along with so I agreed. Within days he had told me why he had decided to change rotas. Some dear, kind soul had told his wife that he was having an affair with his young conductor and his life at home had been hell ever since. It wasnít very flattering to think that he had decided that working with me would solve his problems and I didnít relish the prospect of coming to work to be confronted by an irate wife, but I did feel sorry for him and decided to give it a try. Unfortunately for me, I must be a perfect mother or sister figure for I found myself listening to many tales of various driversí private lives over the years - in fact, one, who worked with me over a period of five years or more, frequently called me ďAuntie DorisĒ and the name stuck. Perhaps I should feel flattered in a way after all?

In any case, I settled down with Harry quite easily - he was a happy-go-lucky man in his early fifties - already a proud Grandfather and we both hoped that his change of conductor would have the desired effect on his home life. I never actually met his wife so presumably she must have received some pretty unflattering reports about my appearance and decided that I constituted no danger to her. For a few weeks all went well, Harry and I would chat about our children - his being a lot older than my own at the time, about bus work - he had several years more service than I had too and we swapped stories about passengers and other crews and generally got on together quite well. Until the day came when he put his name down for rest day working and found he had been given a duty with his former conductor.

I suppose a wiser man would have turned down the duty, but he had volunteered for rest day work because he needed the extra money and decided to do it anyway and say nothing to his wife. A few days later the storm broke and life became hell again. It was almost certainly another member of staff who had stirred up the trouble by gossiping again and I can only hope that the result of his actions didnít trouble his conscience too much. Deciding that life at home had become unbearable, Harry finally left his family - there was a divorce and he returned to working with his former mate gain and eventually they married. When she left to have a child I worked with Harry again for a few months. He was quite happy with his young wife but distressed that some of his children saw only his first wifeís side of the problem and cut themselves off from him altogether. Added to this was his fear that the age gap between himself and his second wife might cause her to be left with a young family if anything untoward happened to him. They had three children over the next few years and his worse fears was realised and a series of heart attacks caused his death and his young family had a very lean time of it until the children left school and were able to go out to work. I met his widow only a few weeks ago and we chatted about old times - she misses Harry dreadfully and no-one has taken his place yet.

Another romance that caused quite a stir in Staines Garage at the time involved a good looking young bachelor driver and a very attractive girl - a Staines conductor. Perhaps I should explain that bus and coach crews came into contact with several other garage canteens - including the Alder Valley canteen in High Wycombe, the Country Bus canteens at Windsor, Dartford and Northfleet and the Central Bus canteens at Victoria and Thornton Heath. The driver fell in love with our young conductor when she used the canteen at his garage and decided to transfer to Staines to get to know her better. He was somewhat disconcerted to discover that she not only had several boyfriends at our garage but ardent admirers in every other canteen we used. The atmosphere grew rather tense for some months and rumour had it that not a few fights broke out between the newcomer and the locals until the lass finally solved the problem by transferring to Northfleet and marrying a driver down there. The rivals became the best of frends and peace reigned in Staines once again.

Other romances blossomed and died over the years, few culminating in weddings between crew members, but one wife in particular solved her marital problem in a very neat way. She told her driver husband that she had got a new job and duly left home at 7.30 a.m. arriving home again round 6.30 each evening. This went on for a couple of weeks until the day came when she arrived at the garage in uniform and reported for duty/ I wasnít around in the garage that day but Iíd love to have seen the expression on his face when she walked into the canteen while he was having a cup of tea with the object of his affections. To cap it all, it has always been the policy of the Transport Board to put married couples on the same duties unless specifically requested otherwise: the husband decided that discretion was the better part of valour and accepted the inevitable. Within a few days they were acting like a couple of turtle doves - he was so proud of her strategy that he was the one who would tell newcomers about it. They stayed at the garage together for several years before leaving the job when they moved out of the district.

It was with great difficulty that Bill and I managed to persuade Andrew to finished his three year hairdressing apprenticeship. Unfortunately, some of his friends teased him about the job - especially when one of them discovered that Andrew was known in the Salon as Monsieur Andre! The salon manager had quickly realised that Andrew had a real flair and regular customers started to ask for him to look after their hair. One such client was the film star, Janet Monroe, currently the wife of Ian Hendry. She made most of her films at Teddington Studios and told Andrew that, when he had finished his training, she would do her best to get him on the staff of the make-up department there so that he could go on looking after her hair. It would have been a wonderful chance for him but he was getting tired of being called a ďpansyĒ (the word ďgayĒ hadnít been adopted then) especially by the other lads in the Army Cadets; to whom he devoted all his spare time. However, he did agree to finish his course just in case he ever changed his mind and decided to take up hairdressing again. He enjoyed going to summer camp with the Army and decided to join up in the Signal Regiment. After training he was sent for two years duty in Northern Ireland - which was a constant worry to us and, although we still saw very little of him, we were pleased when his next posting took his to West Germany. He did eight years in the Signals and became a civilian again last year, going into computer work. He is now married and has a lovely family.

With the two boys away from home, we had a spare room. Having recently taken up photography as a hobby, we fitted the boys room up as a darkroom and did our own developing and printing. As I gradually improved I would bring my camera to work and take literally hundreds of photographs of the garages, buses, coaches, staff and anything interesting on the journey. Gradually my technique improved until I was asked to be the official photographer at Staff Dances, the Annual Childrenís Seaside Outings and Christmas Parties and sold enough of these photographs to cover my expenses and thus pay for my hobby. When I was finally asked to take wedding photographs I knew I was getting pretty good and enjoyed myself immensely. I like photographing people while Bill switched from prints to colour slides and became very good at photographing animals, birds, flowers and insects. Some of his close up colour slides are really professional. Gradually colour printed became more popular than black and white but home processing was very expensive and time consuming and I gradually gave up still photography and bought a cine camera - Iím still in the early stages of film making and most of films are awaiting cutting and editing. It will probably be a couple of years before I get proficient enough to film a wedding. I should have liked to have spend several days filming a typical day ďon the busesĒ but events have overtaken me and there are no conductors working on the buses at Staines any more.

Belonging to a bus garage need not be all work, there is an active sports club at all the garages and frequent inter-garage competitions to keep you on your toes. Up until about ten years ago, when recruiting women conductors ceased, we had a ladies dart team at Staines which was quite successful. I used to throw a pretty good dart myself and managed to keep the individual cup at home for about five years. I was also reserve for the menís team and we had a match with the US Air Base at High Wycombe every month for several years until it closed down. In recent years, with only four women still remaining at Staines Garage, it became impossible to arrange the duties so that we could keep up a team and so our outside interests declined except for Jill who has been hear for twenty-five years and still runs a First Aid Class and a very successful Ladies Team in conjunction with Windsor Garage. Every staff member of London Transport and National Buses can train for First Aid with the St. Johnís Ambulance Service and can sit their First Aid Certificate examinations every year. When there were a lot of women conductors in the Garage we, at Staines, had several teams and I managed to attend a couple of competitions myself.

Although I am happy to say that I have never been present at an accident causing injury and involving my own bus or coach, we always stop to give any assistance possible whenever the occasion arises. Unfortunately I am one of those people who just cannot stand the sight of blood, so I make sure I am out of the bus or coach before the driver and dash off to Ďphone for an ambulance, coming back to direct the traffic or any other job I can find to do until the ambulance or Police arrive and we can be on our way.

Even with the best drivers in the world (and ours are certainly trained to be just that) there comes a time when the brakes have to be applied sharply to avoid an accident on the road and, invariable, the conductor takes a tumble. Iíve certainly had my share of that over the years. If Iím standing on the platform and holding the handrail then the sudden stop causes nothing more serious than a sharp jerk but an unexpected swerve or a sharp application of the brakes when Iím issuing tickets is another matter. At best Iím left sprawling in a passengerís lap and at worse I have somersaulted over the back of vacant seats and landed with a thump at the other end of the bus. Iíve badly wrenched my left knee, chipped a bone in my spine and received innumerable bruises just about everywhere at some time or another. Luckily for me, Iíve never yet been halfway up or down stairs at the crucial times. Conductors have been thrown off and killed that way in the past.

The worse accident I ever had, though, was when I was winding up a window because it had started to rain heavily. The driver had to brake suddenly to avoid a cyclist who came straight out of a side turning into the path of the bus and I sustained a dislocated shoulder. It took seven months to heal sufficiently for me to be able to resume work and Iím still not able to use my right arm to lift anything heavy. Of course, the bus company made my wages up while I was off work and the Union had no difficulty in getting me compensation for the disability but my poor driver was distressed, though in no way to blame for the accident.

It isnít all fun working on the buses. Although we both belonged to London Transport there was always rivalry and a certain amount of ill-feeling between the London Central Buses and the Country Buses and Green Lines. Despite the fact that all the Green Line coaches, except the 725, went through the heart of London and most of the towns on the Country Bus routes were just as traffic packed as London in rush hours, the pay and conditions on Central Buses were considerably better than those of their country cousins - a situation that came to a head in the summer of 1958 when the Union began negotiations for a rise in pay. We had not had a pay rise for some years and we all hoped we should be offered about ten shillings a week extra. Eventually the Central Buses were offered seven and six (thirty-seven and a half pence) and the Country Buses only five shillings (twenty-five pence). This made the difference in our pay even bigger than before and the Country Buses decided to go on strike and hold out for the extra two an six (twelve and a half pence). Never was a strike more ill-fated. To begin with it was midsummer and a lot of people were already away on holiday, those who usually hopped on a bus for short rides into the nearest town merely walked instead. The weather was warm and sunny and Central Buses ran from Staines to Egham in any case and they werenít striking - we werenít getting any brotherly support from them! Lots of people bought motor scooters or bubble cars which were very popular then, and never became bus passengers again. Women shopped at their local corner shops instead of going into towns and there were no annual sales or exhibitions at Olympia to draw people who would otherwise be using Green Lines. Standards of living were rising and people were beginning to consider the possibility of affording to own a car. The bus strike must certainly have helped them decide to take the plunge and become car owners, many of them never to return to Public Transport again.

We held out for eight weeks, many drivers and conductors left the job when their savings became exhausted and debts began to pile up. No work meant no pay, with the exception of those belonging to the Transport and General Workers Union who received one pound per week for each of their children. Strikers were entitled to no Social Security then and weeks without pay really brought us down to our knees. Finally we were all called to a Union meeting at Garage level and assured that if we went back to work the following week we could receive the extra two and six. Back we all went, rejoicing in our victory - justice had been done. Next pay day we discovered, to our deep dismay and disgust, that our rise was only five shillings after all. Eight weeks on strike only to go back to the terms we had been offered in the first place. Some considered that London Transport had ďdone the dirtyĒ on us and gone back on their promise while the rest believed that the TGWU had paid out all their available money and had adopted a ruse to save further payments from the Union funds. Men and Women who had stuck it out for eight weeks without a murmur suddenly became very bitter and resigned forthwith. Emergency rotas were hurriedly compiled to work a very much reduced service and the skeleton staff found themselves working longer hours in an attempt to keep the scant timetables in service.

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