Waiting for ages
Brighton could be very busy at times and it was very possible to queue for a bus, for what seemed like an age, and then be told by the conductor the bus was too full to take any more on board. At times like this they were stopping only to let out someone from an already overcrowded bus. This event took place many times at The Level stop, as by then the bus had collected people from work from several stops already.
Cold windy bus-stops
There never seemed enough buses in my growing and working years and bus stops were often cold, windy and not such friendly places to be in. After a shopping visit to Western Road or a long work day mum and I would walk down North Street and head for the bus terminus. The wind from the sea could be cutting, but as the 26 bus pulled in for its ‘tea’ stop we hopped in.
Away from the winter chills
Having boarded the bus, not only were we inside and away from the winter chills, but we had secured ourselves a place before anyone else. The whole bus was ours to choose from. That meant sitting the whole way to Hollingbury rather than possibly standing till Fiveways till the bus emptied somewhat and left available seats. This terminus stop was not used by many. We always seemed to be there by ourselves. Then as the bus took off round the Old Steine to its first pick up stop at Electricity House a whole surge of bodies clambered for places.
A scrum at the bus-stop
There were no real queues in those days, and often the ones standing outside the proposed queue were first on. Many a time the outsiders pushed forward disregarding any sign of a queue, and often those of us who may have waited already twenty minutes or so were held back by the conductor announcing, ‘Only 2 more inside’ , and ringing the bell for the driver to set off.
Conductor’s ticket machines
I well remember the conductor’s little ticket machines. A small silver coloured contraption with a wheel that was turned to the required price, then a handle at the side that was turned and would roll out your ticket. Those poor guys, they did not have an easy job, they were very busy times. I am talking here 1950s through the 1960s. I am afraid I am not certain at which stage the more modern buses were introduced, without the conductor system.
A wild bus chase
Then there were the days you just came round the corner to see your bus pulling away from the stop. That led to a wild chase after the bus and the very dangerous act of grabbing the pole at the back step board, running along for a couple of steps or so in time with the bus, then jumping on board with a sigh of relief.
The drawbacks of fashion
Running after a bus was a very tricky thing to attempt in high heels and a skinny tight skirt. Fashions in those days were not made for long steps or high jumps whatsoever. Not very lady-like either, but better than another 20 minute wait; especially if you had a date that night and had to be back in town again shortly after a meal and a quick change. I think this is why they designed the closed door buses, they were much safer.
A charming whistler
My mother had another tactic. If we arrived as a bus was pulling away she performed a rather high pitched whistle which drew everyone’s attention. But unfortunately not always the attention of the conductor though. This was another un-ladylike act of ours. Somewhat confusing really as mum was quite a lady and always dressed like real lady in velvet hats and beautiful clothing. She was very charming and maybe not recognised as the whistler at the time of event?
‘Those big red things!’
My father worked in Lancing and had trains and buses to catch. There were times when he had to let a full bus go and wait in the rain for the next. His entry into the house after a long days work, cold, wet and hungry, was followed by the words, ‘Don’t mention those big red things!’ meaning buses of course. Still miss Brighton….just hope the system is a better one nowadays. Happy journeys.