OVER the past six weeks the Bugle has received many stories from readers recounting their happy days on coach holidays and outings in the 1950s and ’60s, all inspired by our feature on the “Golden Age of Black Country Coach Companies” in Bugle 962. The contributions have come from ex-coach drivers and holidaymakers but this week we present a story sent in by one of the coach company operators.
80-year-old Joe Green of Stourbridge joined his father’s coach business on completing his National Service in 1950 and over the next 30 years he saw it expand from a local firm carrying Black Country folk to and from work or on daytrips and holidays, to an international travel business offering a regular itinerary of European excursions.
Joe writes: “I read the interesting feature submitted by Mr Overton on the golden age of Black Country coach companies. It brought back memories of those halcyon days when my family were operating coaches. I saw my father’s name, J. Green of Brierley Hill, in the list supplied by Mr Overton, and many more who I knew very well.
“My dad started his charabanc business in 1924, but the earliest records I have date back to 1929. From thereon I have a detailed record of every coach that he purchased and sold, starting with a Chevrolet coach that had 14 seats, and the records contain the registrations numbers, the make, the seating capacity, and even to whom the vehicle was eventually sold. A total of 110 coaches are listed from 1929 to 1987, when we ceased operating.
“Your readers may be interested to see a photograph of a Commer coach which was built in Stourbridge by F.J. Fildes and Co., coachbuilders of Park Street. The brand new coach was sold to my dad and photographed outside the gates of Mary Stevens Park in June 1935. The records show that he sold the coach to W.A. Noakes of Pensnett in 1938.
“I also have a photograph of the old double-deck buses that my dad operated to the Austin works at Longbridge during the war years, with my mom acting as conductress, collecting the fares, which were 1/9d return from Brierley Hill, Kingswinford, Wordsley, Amblecote and Stourbridge.
“These open-stair buses where made in 1929 and 1930 and were later re-bodied by H.V. Burlingham, Blackpool, in 1944. These buses, along with other single-deckers, carried hundreds and hundreds of workers to the motor works, which also had an aero factory where aircraft and components were manufactured. I remember my mom telling me that on one occasion when the bus she was on was nearing Fairfield on the way to the Austin, a German plane, which was apparently searching for the Longbridge works, swooped very low so all the workers on board, including my mom, jumped off the bus and dived for cover in the hedgerows on the side of the road.
“Mr Overton was asking for photographs of coaches dating back to the 1940s and ’50s so I enclose a picture of two Bedford OB 29-seater coaches that were very popular with operators just after the war years.
“My brother Stan served in the army and landed on the D-Day beaches on his 19th birthday, 6th June, 1944. He returned to the family business in 1948 and I came back from the RAF in 1950, also to join my dad in the business. As young men we persuaded Dad to diversify the coach business and we purchased a haulage firm that had three lorries. This grew rapidly until we had 12 tippers carrying coal from the East Midlands pits to various power stations.
“We then acquired the rights to an opencast coal sit in Shropshire, and also a roadstone quarry in the Black Country. At its peak we were operating 24 lorries and had a vast amount of equipment, such as bulldozers, excavators, mechanical loading shovels, vibrating screens, and were responsible for supplying thousands of tons of surface coal and coke to power stations and mixed stone for road making.
“During the late ’50s and ’60s, Stan and I began to lay down our plans to operate European tours and quietly began to put into place our next venture by acquiring the coach and remaining business of Imperial Motorways. We also acquired part of the coach fleet of Court Line Airways.
“It was when we had exhausted the coal sites and quarries that Stan and I began to re-invest our capital into expanding the coach business and started off by purchasing the coach operations of W.A. Noakes Ltd. and Hemmings Jubilee Coaches of Pensnett in the early ’70s. We purchased four secondhand Leyland Leopard Plaxton 44-seat coaches, with toi- lets on board, from Scout/Standerwick of Preston, which we used for excursions and tours in the UK. We also bought four brand new Leyland Plaxton 50-seat coaches, which we operated regularly to Paris, Amsterdam, the Rhine Valley and Switzerland. We fitted one of these coaches with a rear lounge, complete with bar and kitchen.
“My dad died in 1958 and then my brother Stan died in 1976, followed by my mom in 1980. I remained as the sole survivor of the family business, which had grown to have three travel offices, 16 coaches, and was involved in transporting bands and choirs throughout the world and having representation in the USA with my appointments as a USA travel councillor.
“I had a spell of ill health and decided that the business was too large for me to control, so I closed its doors in 1988. After retiring just a month I was headhunted by the Richardson Brothers to join them in forming Merry Hill Mini Buses and subsequently went on to form two more companies, which I sold out to the management team.
“After another month of retirement I was headhunted by Age Concern Stourbridge to re-form their holiday division and also became the centre manager, a position I still hold, although I have recently celebrated my 80th birthday.”