A post from Metscan today about public transportation got me to thinking on the subject. I, living in a rural setting, have no access to public transportation. It would be nice to have it. Unless you live on the East or West Coasts in the U.S., or in a large American city with a rapid rail system, you are stuck with using your car for everything.
Once upon a time in Northern Alabama, however, there was an option. The Joiner Transit Company Inc., based in Florence, Ala., was established in 1939. I have no idea if the company still exists, but I do know they no longer have bus service into rural areas. Back in the day, the late 1950s and early 1960s, Joiner had two weekday bus runs into this area -- one early morning, which delivered workers to the J.T. Flagg Knitting Mill in East Florence.
Credit: National Museum of American History. Weaving at the White Oak Mill in Greensboro, NC, 1909.
According to my mother, many people in the area were lucky to have jobs at the cotton "knitting mill, as it was called. It had its beginnings in 1893, when cotton was king in Alabama, and it underwent several ownerships and names, until it closed down, maybe in the early 1960s, due to foreign competition.
|Joiner's Bus looked something like this. Image credit: India Travel Blog|
The Joiner's bus made another run around noon, and it was this one I am most familiar with. My grandmother, Mommie Howell, loved to catch the bus to town, where she would shop around and have her noon meal at the Woolworth’s or Scott’s Five-and-Dime lunch counter. She was already into her 70s at the time, but a fiercely independent woman who didn’t want to report her every coming-and-going to her adult children. Mother said oftentimes she would stop by for a visit, find the house empty and a note on the kitchen table saying she had taken the bus to town. How Mommie Howell loved those “Five and Ten Cent stores," as she called them. There were three of them side by side in Florence.
|Typical customers at a Woolworth's lunch counter. This photo is from 1987. Credit: News Tribune Attic.|
|A typical Woolworth's lunch counter|
I recall a few times I was permitted to ride the bus to town with Mommie, and after I was a young teenager, my sister and I were allowed to make the trip alone.
A couple of cute stories I often heard told back then: An elderly lady was boarding the bus and her underpants slipped down around her ankles. Undaunted, she simply pulled them up under her skirt, rearranged them around her waist and continued up the steps, acting regal and as if nothing unusual had happened.
Another story is from my sister’s friend Becky, who regularly rode the noon bus from her home in Florence up to Anderson to visit her grandmother, Mae Mamma Howard Beasley, who owned and operated a little café in Anderson. The driver would tell Becky to have Mae Mamma fix him a hamburger and he’d pick it up after he traveled up the road a bit further, circled around and again passed through Anderson. Everyone around knew Mae Mamma’s hamburgers were the best. I still recall how those hamburgers smelled; nothing like hamburgers cooked today.
Shoppers traveling into town could catch the last bus home, which returned to the area around 5 p.m.
The bus route thrived during those days. Families owned one vehicle, which oftentimes was driven by fathers to jobs and the family had no way of going anywhere except on the bus. But more prosperous times arrived in the 1960s, a second or third car was affordable and the bus service no longer served the need of rural people.
Times have changed. The likelihood of having transportation such as this available again is remote. Americans love their cars! Even most children no longer ride the free buses to school. The chances of having a fast rail service built in this country that would connect all points also will never happen. Too expensive. The oil lobby. The automobile industry lobby. Too many hurdles ever to allow us to have the efficient transportation systems that are widely available in other parts of the world.
So I suppose I'll just have to live with my memories of the Joiner Bus line!
What are some of your memories of your youth? Perhaps things that existed then that are no longer?