Riding the Bus; Next Stop, 1949
by Jim Corbran - posted 10:34 am, July 28, 2013
So I’m at the 2013 Grand NASHionals yesterday in Batavia (a Nash car show, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention this past week), and hear this commotion behind me. I turn around to see this huge ol’ bus coming through the show area and wow! — memories of Crystal Beach’s bus parking area immediately come to mind. And then this 1949 Flxible Clipper (the “e” was dropped from the Flexible name in 1919) stops right in front of me, and a group a people stream out, all smiling and laughing. Gee, I thought, talk about arriving to an old car show in style! Took a few photos, and moved on. About 20 minutes later here it comes again, with another group of people exiting. By the third time I’d positioned myself to find out what was going on with this old bus. And don’t I find out that the owner/driver is giving rides to anyone who wants to go!
The owner is Bob Malley of Rochester, a retired businessman/restaurant owner with a life-long interest in big trucks and buses. His ’49 Clipper is painted in the livery of the old Blue Bus Lines, which traveled between Rochester and Buffalo. Only 200 Clippers were built for the 1949 model year, and Malley’s, a Sightseer model with windows extending into the roof, was in service with the Rocky Mountain Coach line of Denver, where it made trips up and down Pike’s Peak. “There was no doubt this was the Pike’s Peak bus,” remarked Malley, “you should have seen the dust embedded in the brakes!”
There’s no dust anywhere to be seen in his immaculately-restored Clipper. What I expected to be a short trip around the block was a 15-minute drive through the Batavia countryside, with Malley strong-arming the huge steering wheel around the corners while coaxing the gear selector into the next range. You had to be in good shape to drive one of these things for a full shift. I sat in the seat right behind Malley so I could watch him drive, and kept hearing comments from behind on how well this 64-year-old bus rides. And it’s true. There wasn’t a rattle to be heard, everything seemed to work, and the seats were far more comfortable than a lot of buses on the road today.
Malley’s comment at the beginning of our journey, “I hope to bring you all back!” turned out to be no problem, as the Clipper, which drew looks from everyone we passed, performed flawlessly. Malley even has a full uniform from the Blue Valley Trailways bus line, which is what the Blue Bus Lines became over the years after a series of mergers and acquisitions. They couldn’t have a better spokesman.