Bus Station Lost & Found

This photo of me with my suitcase getting ready to board a bus (probably to Advance to see my Grandparents) was taken about the same time as the photos behind Fire Department No. 1 that ran yesterday.

Where WAS the bus station?

That set me off on a quest to find the old bus station. For some reason, I thought it was on South Spanish between Independence and Merriwether.

The place where the Bel Air Grill is now “felt” right. I heard some women on the outside patio talking and laughing, so I walked up and said, “I KNOW that none of you are old enough to answer this question, but do you happen to know if this was once a bus station?”

One of them thought it might have been, but they all thought the building south of it looked more like a bus station because it was bigger and had a garage on the back.

I took a few photos and drove off. I hadn’t gone two blocks when my cellphone rang with an unfamiliar number from the Cape Area Code. It was one of the women calling to say that their waitress had asked her boss, who confirmed that the Bel Air WAS the place.

Helpful women at the Bel Air Grill

I circled back to take a photo of my new friends, first giving them my standard bar warning, “If there are any folks here who shouldn’t be here or who are here with something they shouldn’t be, now’s the time to let me know.”

I went home and started to write up the story. The more I looked at the old and new photos, the more things didn’t add up. There weren’t enough doors on the Bel Air, even if it HAD been remodeled over the years. And, there’s no overhang to keep passengers dry while boarding the buses.

This isn’t the Bel Air

When I looked in the 1968 City Directory under Bus Stations, it gave an address of 16 North Frederick and Continental Southern Lines, Great Southern Coaches and St. Louis-Cape Bus Line were all listed as being there.

That’s how you ended up reading about the Fire Department lily pond instead of the bus station. I needed to do more homework.

16 N. Frederick was the bus station

The bus station turned out to be at 16 North Frederick. That’s Fire Department No. 1 on the right. I PARKED next to the darned bus station when I was shooting the lily pond photo yesterday. (You can see the little bridge if you look closely.) This photo also has the new federal courthouse in the background.

Jesse James provided a clue when he posted this comment on the Fire Department story (I think he may have some street names mixed up, though):

We used to play there when we were little, Jim West, Mike Randal and others. We had a lot of fun trying to catch the gold fish and then the Firemen would yell at us and make us leave. We then “grew up” and went to the Bus station next door and played the pinball machines for a number of years. I remember my brother Charles and Jimmy Vogelsang teaching me to ride a bicycle. I was doing well so they said let’s ride down to the Bus station and play the pinball machines.

Well I didn’t know that the bike they had put me on didn’t have any brakes, We went down Fredrick St from Merriwether, there is a hill when you reach Independence St, I flew through the intersections just missing a car and the only way to stop the bike was to hit the large pole that served as the sign for the Bus station. That was a sudden jolt. We sure had fun as kids even if your brother and his friends tried to kill you a couple of times.

If you look between the two front windows, you can see the pole that Jesse crashed into.

Doors, columns and overhang

There was a fence around the side of the building and I got there when the business was closed, so I had to hold my camera over my head to shoot the north side of the building where the buses pulled in. You can see the doors, brick columns and overhang that show up in the old black & white prints.

I bet that big speaker hanging from the ceiling near the back of the photo dates back to when bus announcements were made to passengers.

For you folks who complain that I never show up in my current photos, I’ll point out my shadow on the left.

What WAS on Spanish?

Why do I still think there was a bus station in the block of Spanish where the Bel Air Grill is today? I’m sure one of you has the answer.

34 Replies to “Bus Station Lost & Found”

  1. I think you’re right.I think the station was there at one time. I can’t tell you why, but I can picture it.

    1. There was a Greyhound Bus Stop on Spanish for a time. The Agents first name was Patsy. Don’t recall last name.
      Patsy moved to Paducah, when Greyhound moved to 16 N Frederick.

      My Dad, Robert Hemperley, owned the
      Bus Depot and Garage. It had been purchased by my Grandfather Robert Hemperley, Sr., in 1941. St Louis Cape Busline boomed during the War Years.

      It continued to boom until I-55 was completed in 1973. Business slowed when Greyhound started operating schedules non-stop from Cape to St Louis, in around 1974.

      I was a ticket agent from the late 60’s
      Until Graduation from SEMO, in 1975.

      Great Southern Coaches, Trailways, Southern Greyhound and St Louis Cape
      Bus line operated out of this facility until
      The mid-80’s.

      St Louis Cape Bus Line, operated until their owners, Chromoloy, went bankrupt in St Louis.

      Shortly after that, my Dad sold the entire facility to a large Wholesale Florists.

      Greyhound had bought a failing Trailways
      In 1987. There was not enough competition for 2 bus carriers to operate
      Parallel Routes.

      My Dad had a successful Family operated business into the late 90’s,
      Mostly selling Group Charters.

      I had a a successful career with Greyhound in several states, including Indiana, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida,
      Acting as a Regional Manager, I also covered North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, based out Of Orlando.

      After 38 Years in the business, I retired on the Southwest Coast of Florida.

      1. Thanks for the overview of bus service in the region. I don’t think I rode the bus often because anytime I was headed to St. Louis, I usually hopped in the car.
        I did take the train between Athens, Ohio, and Cape when I was going to school there. (And before the railroads set schedules that did their best to discourage passenger travel.)

      2. Hey Rob,

        Been a long time. If you’d like to re-connect with your old frat brothers, at least those of us who are still waking up not dead, show up at TJ Wings on Vance Road in Valley Park (STL area) the first Wednesday in December for the SEMO Sig Tau annual get together. The bar is owned by R. Biggs, and it’s always a good time. I’m sure you heard that we lost Saboo & S. Caputa last year along with CHS ’71 classmate S. Shivelbine. Would love to visit with you. If you’re still in contact with Sharon, tell her Steve said hi. I’ll soon have 42 years in with Cathy.

  2. The bus station on Spanish St. became “Bakers Big Burger”. I believe it moved to N. Fredrich to keep pace with the “urban sprawl”, also their was a rail spur nearby. When the bus line quit making the run to Advance and other points south, “Flo’s Taxi Service” picked up those runs. By the way, you looked like “Little Lord Fauntleroy”

  3. Pinball machines in the N.Frederick station offered one of the better venues for that activity, up into the early 60s. Ken, do you have any photos of the public buses that plied the city? They once could take a kid seemingly anywhere, and I wonder if the paper did a story when the service was discontinued.

  4. So the old station building is still there. In the late 50s/early 60s I rode the Cape-St. Louis buses to my cousins in Longtown, getting off at Herb’s Tavern. To return to Cape, Herb would put a wooden arrow up or out to flag the bus to stop. Later, I rode the buses to St Louis to my fiance’s, now my bride of 45 years.
    Also I rode the Greyhound buses to Central Missouri when I was in College. The trips were usually fun as the buses were full of students heading home to South East Missouri or back to school.
    I don’t like to comment all the time but I am going to take this opportunity to tell you that I really enjoyed your side roads journal of your trip to Cape with your Mother. I agree it is more fun to travels the by-roads. For interesting travel on I-24, I suggest Eagle Mountain south to Chattanooga. There is a great roadside park at the Tennessee River on I-24.
    Finally, it was good to learn that the little park-like pond next to the old station#1 is still there. Sometimes when waiting for a bus, I would wander over there.

  5. If there was a bus station on Spanish Street, I don’t remember it. I do have vivid memories of playing on that little foot bridge and around the pond next to the old fire station while waiting to leave on a Cape-St. Louis bus bound for my grandmother’s, though.

    You never fail to poke around and find just the right old memories, Ken, and most of them put a smile on my face!

  6. Ken, I don’t know your area at all but it sure gave me some neat ideas on blogging, thanks. You were a cute little boy. I bet you would have hated to have heard that back then.

  7. The bus station WAS on Spanish south of Independence. We used to pick up my uncle there when he came home from working in St. Louis all week. In 1961, when I took the bus from Memphis to Cape, the bus station was at the old Alvarado at the corner of Hwy. 61 and Broadway.

  8. To further comment on our idyllic years growing up in Cape….When I was a teenager, my mom would drop me off at 7:30am at the bus station on her way to work. Suitcase in had and words of wisdom in my head (stay close to the bus driver) I would leave for ST. Louis to visit my sister. On arrival in STL, I would walk to Famous-Barr and put my suitcase in a locker, shop all day and at precisely 4:30pm get my suitcase and walk to 15th and Olive to meet Barb. Now tell me…..how many of us would put one of our grandchildren on a bus to St. Louis today?

  9. Another one of my favorite buildings…the Frederick Street bus station. It was a really neat Mexican Wares shop for awhile, but unfortunately it closed. Love the picture of you as a little boy-you were so cute. And I see you in the last photo, your shadow that is.

  10. Regular contributor Keith Robinson sent several links that got snagged by the blog’s spam filter.

    Here they are:

    Feb. 25, 1929 – Pickwick-Greyhound Lines has moved from Behrens Motor Co. on Broadway to the Metropolitan Restaurant. (There’s a story about a bus wreck under it.)

    Dec. 13, 1949 – You could buy Greyhound and Trailway Toy Buses, $1.50 each, Union Bus Center, 30 South Spanish.

    July 3, 1926 – Southeast Missouri Transit Co. announces the addition of another bus to its Cape-St. Louis Line leaving Cape Girardeau at noon daily. It had buses leaving “for St. Louis and Points Enroute” at 6:30 a.m., 12:00 and 5:30 p.m.

    Aug. 23, 1947 – The St. Louis-Cape Bus Line and Great Southern Coaches will begin using the new Union Bus Depot at 16 North Frederick street next Wednesday, with all buses from the two lines departing only from that station. The two concerns now use a terminal at 725 Broadway. the story goes on to list the station’s amenities. (It doesn’t list the pinball machines, which seem to be the major attraction for most of our male readers.)

  11. The bus station had been in the bldg that is now Bel Air but also included the blg. on the south side. That bldg had overhead doors at the back where buses could be serviced.The Bel Air bldg (later Baker’s Big Burger) was the terminal where passenger got tickets and boarded. I think it then moved to Frederick Street on it’s move to a new era and an end to a full sercice terminal in Cape.

  12. My father,Clyde Mason was a disel mechanic for Saint Louis Cape Bus Lines. The business was owned by Robert Hemperly (also one of our State Representatives).

    When my mom and dad needed a break from their four children they would pack us a lunch and take us down to the bus station for a round trip ride to Saint Louis. We would sit behind the driver, Ott Causey or Andy Kilhaufner and they would watch out for us. There were a lot of stops along old Highway 61,so it pretty much took up most of the day.

    When we arrived in Saint Louis the driver would lead us to the bathroom, buy us a pop (defeating his purpose??) and load us back on the bus for the return trip. We thought that trip was the grandest thing!

    1. Hi Patty!

      I think I’ve talked to you before. I worked with your mother at the Pancake House. A few years ago I published an ad in the Southeast Missourian requesting bus memorobilia. I met your father and was A VERY NICE MAN! He let me borrow some photos that I took and copied and returned to him. A.C. Kifhafner called me and I met him. He gave me a photo of him posed by a bus and his ticket punch. Mr. Hemperly let me borrow a couple photos. I’m glad I sent out the request when I did as all three have passed. I have all their photos posted on my Facebook page. You’re welcome to friend me and view the photos. I hope you stay after viewing them. I can be found in Ken’s friends list.

      Best wishes,


  13. Ken, Been away from Cape for 30 years now but really enjoy this website and the memories of growing up in Cape.

    I really enjoyed revisiting the old Fire Station # 1 because I spent a lot of time there during my time at Cape Fire. It was a major improvement when we “moved”
    to the S/W corner of Sprigg & Independence in the early 80’s Keep bringing the “memories”.

  14. There definitely was a bus station on south Spanish in 1949 because that is where my bride to be was waiting on a bus to go home to Marston Mo. and she had called me to come and visit with her until the bus ran. I told her to hang on and I would be down to pick her up since she was sick, and I would drive her home, a big 65 mile trip. This started a whirlwind romance of almost 2 weeks and ended up with us getting married in Piggot Arkansas and has lasted until now and will be 62 years of wedded bliss in July!
    Joe Whitright “45”

  15. Love this story. Fascinating.
    And fun.
    Also love that you took the bus at that young age. We’d never let kids do such things today. But kids are tougher than ya think!

    1. Anne,

      This was in the days before 24/7 All Fear All The Time news channels were invented.

      When we were out of school, we’d tell our parents, we’re going hiking or biking or fishing or camping and then we’d head out over the fields or on our bikes.

      In a small town, you couldn’t get into too much trouble because someone who knew your parents would rat you out.

      Kids can’t ride their bikes to school these days because they’re in danger of being run over by parents who are driving their kids to school because it’s not safe for them to ride their bikes.

      Wonder why all the kid in these photos from the 60s are skinny? It’s because we were allowed to DO things.

      And, we grew up reasonably unafraid because we weren’t told that everything was dangerous.

  16. Mr. Hemperly provided buses for numerous rolling parties to the Cape night spots. Trailways had multi-state authority, but St Louis – Cape may not have. One Christmas vacation on a “Find of the Holidays” event the bus was rear ended turning into the Purple Crackle. Damage to the bus, which was easily identifiable by the above roof air scoop at the rear, was minimal, but Hemp was not pleased.

  17. April 10, 1968 was the most memorable trip I ever took out of the bus station as I headed to St. Louis for my enlistment in the Air Force. My dad made the same trip in 1950 when he was recalled into the Navy during Korea. I wonder how many share my and Dad’s experience.

    Hundreds, if not thousands, of SEMO students also rode the bus from the depot to St. Louis and back. For South County residents the trip ended at Dohack’s restaurant.

  18. Greyhound Bus Station in Cape Girardeauby Elroy ‘Roy’ Kinder on Saturday, April 9, 2011 at 7:23pm
    Greyhound bus station was located at 16 S. Spanish since the 1930’s. The bus garage was further south at 30 or ? S. Spanish. During the 1960’s the Union Bus Station on N. Frederick was opened. My son John says he remembers the Greyhound sign on the front of the building. Also using that site were Continental Trailways, St. Louis Cape and Great Southern Coaches. In 1954, the year I entered the U.S. Army, the local highways changed places. Highway 61 previously went west from Jackson to Fredericktown. Highway 25 previously went north from Jackson to St. Louis. Why? I don’t know — some relocating numbers by MODOT). I remember going with my mother to visit relatives in St. Louis. Several stops were made, Perryville, St. Gen, Crystal City and our destination, Mehlville, stopping at Dohacks Restaurant where we were met by my Uncle and Aunt. This was on a St. Louis–Cape bus. I never rode on a Greyhound until my military time. In the mid–1940’s I visited the Station on S. Spanish with my good friend Bill Gockel. His father Gustav Gockel was a long time driver for Greyhound. I remember well awaiting the huge (?) silver sided, rear diesel powered, bus turning from Independence south, swinging wide and entering the station area (see photos). Mr. Gockel was a large man (maybe from driving, eating and sleeping…I remember always being so quiet when at their home during the day to spend time with Bill). Bill’s son John works for Wieser Honda as a mechanic. Bus garage usually had a bus or two being readied for continuing a trip. Mail and packages were placed aboard for St. Louis and/or Memphis, etc. Station at 16 South Spanish later became Bakers Big Burger, then Brenda’s (now Patty Lou’s) on S. Frederick, then lately to Bel Air where last week the city council censured (?) the establishment for too loud music outdoors. A new ordinance is in the process to regulate. Greyhound later relocated for a time to the Alvaredo at Broadway and Kingshighway. Today it must be boarded in Jackson.

    Mid–1940 to early 1950’s Greyhound — first rear-engine, diesel powered, A/C model

    Postcard of St. Louis downtown station

    Pictures can be seen on my Facebook site. Greyhound bus picture IS NOT in front of Cape station on Spanish. File photo

  19. I remember boarding the Cape-Stl bus on Frederick St. I woudl go to StL to stay with my sister and brother and their families. I enjoyed those rides – sometimes with my mother and often alone.
    My one unique recollection of the bus station is the proximity to Trinity Lutheran Church. On June 13, 1970, a florist parked in front of the church to unload flowers for a wedding. He made one trip into the church and then returned for the second box. While he was in with the fist box, a man walked by from the bus station and helped himself to a bouquet. As WE prepared to walk down the aisle, I discovered my sister’s flowers were missing!! I have always wondered what that fellow told the recipient of those flowers!! How do I know the man came from the bus station – a friend across the street witnessed the deed!
    Ken, keep the memories flowing!

  20. My only connection to the Greyhound bus station was handing an envelope with a news photograph from the Southeast Missourian to the driver a few times in the 1970s. Before we got a photo transmitter, this is how we got a picture to the Associated Press office in St. Louis for transmission to member newspapers. I always sent it collect. Now we routinely email photos to the AP from a computer.

    1. Fred,

      I still have the original wirephoto transmissions of two of my photos picked up by the AP. One was a train derailement and the other was a kid who climbed the quarry at Trail of Tears and got stuck on a ledge. I don’t recall how I got them there.

      When Philip Odell Clark killed his grandmother-in-law and held his ex-wife’s family hostage, a photo I shot of him coming out of the house holding a gun at a Missourian paperboy’s head made the AP. They wanted it badly enough that they paid me to drive it to St. Louis.

      Actually, I was so excited about getting the photo to them in a hurry that Mother said SHE’D drive. She figured, correctly, that I’d have it floored all the way and sweep up every highway patrolman in SE Missouri.

      You young whippersnappers have it easy in these digital days.

  21. Hi Ken,
    The pictures and memories about the old bus station and the Lily pond brought back many memories for me too. I am the oldest daughter (born 1951) of Joe Krueger, who had five children. We lived on 2020 Broadway across from the McDonalds and next door (2024 Broadway) to the house owned by his sister, Helen Krueger. On Friday nights my dad would drive to the bus station to pick up my Aunt Helen every two weeks. She owned her home, but had to commute back and forth to Alton, IL where she taught Latin at Woodriver High School near Alton, IL. While she was out of town, my Dad would keep an eye on her house for her. She never learned how to drive, so she would come home to see us every two weeks by the bus. On Sunday afternoons my dad and I would take her back to the bus station to catch the bus back to Alton. I loved going with my dad because while we waited for the bus to come in on Friday nights, we had some wonderful talks. We would take her back to the bus station on Sunday afternoons and say “See you in two weeks”. When I was small, I always wanted to go with him to take her back on Sundays because Dad would let me play on the stone bridge at the lily pond. When I became old enough to drive, I would volunteer to take Aunt Helen to the bus on Sunday afternoons and have some great talks with her all to myself. THanks Ken for stirring up a warm memory of both my Dad and My Aunt.
    Libby Krueger Billham

  22. I rode the bus to my Grandmother’s in Caruthersville several times. One time stands out. We stopped for lunch at some dive. I was following the people into the building when a white woman jerked me up and said I should go in the front door with her. Having never been around any prejudice, I was shocked! Apparently the “people” I was following were blacks, and they had to go in the back. I thought they were just people!

  23. When I was boy the bus station on Frederick St. was a very busy place. I think it was even open 24 hours at some point. Every year when we took our family vacations the starting point was St. Louis-Cape bus to the St. Louis Airport. That was SO EXCITING to a little boy to see that big, silver bus pull up to the gate with the loud diesel engine and “St. Louis-Cape Bus Line” written in pretty script across the side of the bus. And I LOVED the old Trailways Silver Eagle buses.

    My uncle drove for Great Southern and at that time wasn’t serving Cape but had Flo’s Taxi Service. Another reader mentioned her. I remember she had a big Chevy Impala station wagon and wore a uniform.

  24. Ken, we own the building at 735 Broadway, and my 90 year old uncle, Fred Kraft who knows Cape backwards and forwards, told us that our building was the bus depot in the late 20’s. It was in the basement and there was a spiral staircase. The spiral staircase is still there, but dismantled…and in a dark room in the back there is a row of urinals…the upstairs was Bartels Mercantile before it burned in 1937…then the present building replaced it. I love the history of Cape’s buildings and so enjoy your site!

  25. One of my first jobs was at Bakers Big Burger, which later became the Bel-Air. MY mother worked at the bus station, which was located on Fredrick St.

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