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.