TRANSPORT OF THE TWENTIES AND THIRTIES
I was going to call this chapter, "Buses," but I couldn't really do that without mentioning one of the finest transport systems anywhere in the world: The Glasgow Corporation Tramway. This system started in the 1880's with horse- drawn trams on rails, which gave way to the electric trams that were developed and modernized through the years until 1960, when they were completely withdrawn. I thought a chapter on transport might interest the younger male readers.
The system was laid out in the centre of Glasgow on a North-South, East-West grid pattern, the centre of which was Union Street, a one-block street between Argyle Street and St. Vincent Place. Union Street started south of the Clyde as Jamaica Street, went over Jamaica Bridge and changed its name to Union Street. North of St. Vincent Place, it changed again to Renfield Street travelling north to pass Bath Street, Sauchiehall Street and on to Cowcaddens. Every route in Glasgow passed this one square block and it was where the city travellers changed direction and could reach any suburb all around the city.
In the twenties, the rolling stock consisted of four-wheel cars with some of the older ones open on the top deck. Other cars had an open area in the back and front of the top deck. They were driven from either end, and at the terminus, the conductor would untie the cord connected to the trolley, jump down and run round to the other end. Then he would put the little wheel back up to the overhead wires. The driver, or motor-man, then changed ends and was ready to go in the opposite direction. Later, these cars with open ends on the top were covered in by glass, and as the years went on, larger cars with two four-wheel bogies were introduced. Air brakes became the standard, too.
The biggest change came in 1937 when the streamlined "Coronation" models were introduced. These were fast cars that travelled 60 mph on the remote tracks. They were mainly used on long distance suburban trips. The trams had a unique colour scheme. The lower part below the lower deck windows was always orange-yellow, but the wide band below the upper deck windows had green, red, yellow, white or blue, according to the route it was running. People would direct you to take a "blue car" or a "red car" or a "yellow car."
It was possible to take some very long rides, which I did during the summer holidays some years: Paisley to Airdrie, or Renfrew to Milngavie were the longest trips. Living in Glasgow, people went everywhere by tram. Private cars were few and far between, as long as the trams were running. The Corporation owned the power stations which supplied the electricity for the trams and were independent of the National Grid. Personally, I think it was an enormous mistake when it was decided to scrap the trams. They were finally taken off in 1961.
Now I can turn to buses. Living in Dennistoun, we had no occasion to use the buses which went past the end of our street to Glasgow centre or to Chryston in the opposite direction, as was shown on the destination screen. The trams took us anywhere we needed to go, and to some extent, that still applied when we went to Dalmuir, because Dalmuir West was the terminus for the Red No. 9 tram from Auchenshuggle and also the Green No. 12 from Springfield Road (Parkhead).
Shortly after moving to Dalmuir, my older sister, Kit, started as a conductor on the "Star Bus Company," which included one bus and was owned by Mr. Charles Stewart. It was a 26-seat bus with a "Lancia" engine. They worked shifts -- 6 a.m. till 3 p.m. and 3 p.m. till midnight, with one day off every week. Naturally, I became aware of the various buses operating from Glasgow to Balloch (Loch Lomond) and there was a variety of vehicles on the road then.
The "Lancia" was built in Italy and there was one other "Lancia" owned and driven by Dave Drysdale. There were probably a dozen or so American Built "Reo" engineered buses and also three or four Studebakers. Baillie Brothers, who became very big in later years, had four Albions, one of which had a canvas top which could be opened in the summer. George Montague had four Albions and called his fleet the Reliable Bus Service. There were many one-bus owners with buses such as the French-made Minerva, a French "DeDeon", one Scottish-built "Halley," a couple of "Dennis" engineered buses, and a company which lasted the test of time -- several Leylands. All these, one-man, and small companies operated under the X.L. Association, which honoured round-trip tickets on any of their buses. This was the set-up until the late Thirties, when many small companies were taken over, and a large National Company, -- Scottish Motor Traction Company (S.M.T.) -- swallowed everything in sight. Baillie Brothers built up a very large operation in company with Albion Motors, who built the buses, and gradually, the small businesses were gone. S.M.T. and Baillie Brothers competed for a while, but eventually, Baillie was acquired by the S.M.T. as well.
As I mentioned before, Kit had started on the "Star" as a conductor, but for one reason or another, left after a year or so and went to work for the "Reliable," which I mentioned earlier. This was the company I conducted for in that fateful year of 1928. Montague and the "Reliable" Bus Co. gave up the business then, and Kit moved on to work on Mrs. Mohan's buses. In fact, the Minerva I spoke about earlier was her workplace. By 1929, Baillie Brothers were putting a fleet of new Albions on the road and Kit went to work for them until she married on December 31, 1929.
Sometime around 1937 or so, Peggy went to work for Baillie Brothers and worked there straight through the war years. She saw "Baillies" taken over by the S.M.T. Peggy's legacy from the war and the S.M.T. was a punctured ear drum, which happened on March 13, 1941. With a heavy air raid in progress, buses anywhere near the depot in Old Kilpatrick were going off the road and into the depot. On her way to the air raid shelter, Peggy got the blast from a bomb explosion, which left her permanently deaf in one ear. Peggy stayed with S.M.T. through the war and eventually left to raise a family.
The next member of the family to conduct was Mary, who originally started in the depot cafeteria, but transferred to the buses after awhile. So now you see why I had to elaborate somewhat in my chapter on transport and buses. The only member of our family who was never involved with buses was Robert, and, in fact, Robert never rode a bike or drove a car all his life; yet, he had a bus stop right at his door!
Something else I might mention which is apropos when writing about transport, is that the years from the mid-twenties to the war and after, were a transition period when horse-drawn transport was gradually phased out in favor of motor transport. In the days of my school years, most deliveries to shops, groceries, vegetable shops, dairies, etc. were by horse-drawn "lorries," or in the case of bread deliveries, by vans drawn by a pair of horses. Home deliveries of milk and other goods were all by horse traffic. At the main line stations, horse- drawn cabs were gradually pushed out by motor taxicabs.