There’s a move on in Bakersfield to relocate the venerable Greyhound Bus Depot from its longtime downtown location to another site, and replace it with a four-story apartment complex.
Bob Price, himself a venerable Bakersfield icon who wrote for the Bakersfield Californian for many years and is now at Channel 17, penned a paen to the old station recently that rekindled memories of riding buses over the years.
My earliest memories were in the 1940s during The Big War when we were urged to avoid driving.
Those were also my worst memories of riding buses.
We lived in Riverdale, near Fresno, and every Friday for a year or more Mom and I rode the Greyhound commuter bus to Fresno, where I would visit my orthodontist, who would cinch-up my braces for another painful weekend.
Then we would have lunch and see a movie or something else to kill time for the return bus.
We rode the bus because we didn’t have a car.
One Friday Mom took us to a movie theater that was presenting a live afternoon show of some kind.
Which turned out to be borderline obscene for those days.
While Mom was embarrassed I, sadly, was way too young to know what I missed.
We rode so many buses in those years that we sometimes complained that something “smells like a Greyhound bus depot.”
Taking the trains
When we were living in Riverdale, and before that in Madera, we traveled by train to visit Mom’s relatives in Bakersfield.
The trains were wonderful compared to the buses. Even at their busy peak years of service during the war, they were clean, had diners and, on the Santa Fe, were the first true “high speed trains,” traveling at up to 110 mph.
The Southern Pacific trains were not as fast, but they were streamlined and comfortable.
My brother Mike, Mom and I once rode from Madera to Bakersfield in the women’s “lounge,” on the SP’s San Joaquin Daylight because of the shortage of seating during the war.
Passenger cars had men’s and women’s bathrooms, with the women’s including much more room and leather sofas while the men’s were the size of a phone booth.
Back in those days folks endured hardships that they would sue over if even suggested these days, at a time when their friends and relatives were giving their lives in far-off wars under horrible conditions and draft dodgers were considered unpatriotic pariahs.
When we moved to Arvin in 1947, we rode the Arvin Line buses to Bakersfield, which were falling apart, a lot like the Antelope Valley High School buses our generation rode from Mojave to Lancaster in the early 1950s, except when we hitchhiked or caught a ride with a fellow student who owned a car.
I rode buses was when I was in the Army at Fort Ord from 1959 to ’61. Brother Mike was at San Jose State and I could spend the weekend with him and enjoy an edible meal. I did specify that I would not eat at a cafeteria, which he later understood when he was in the Air Force. Which had better food than the Army.
My last busing experience was when I served on the California Fair Political Practices Commission in the late 1990s.
I rode Amtrak from Bakersfield to Stockton and took a bus to Sacramento until Amtrak added a through train to the state capitol.
My only problems riding the bus were the filthy Stockton station and a ultra-religious driver who tried to convert anyone who sat up front on his bus. Fortunately, he didn’t last long.
Mojave is a busy bus town with some 50 or more coaches visiting every business day.
A new terminal is supposed to be completed sometime before the end of this century.
We have a health care problem in this nation that is caused by politics. Our mess of insurance companies and other players causes unnecessary delays and costs for patients with all levels of needs.
I visited a local hospital recently for blood tests for an annual physical.
Including the wait, I spent most of an hour for a five-minute procedure that included a urine sample. Some 20 minutes was spent checking my Medicare and private insurance at a hospital I have visited for more than 20 years,
I do not blame the hospital. Our problem is a two-party adversarial governing system in which the lawmakers’ goal is staying in office rather than serving the people they suddenly re-discover every two or four years.
We desperately need a system in which everyone from birth carries a digital card that immediately connects them to a national database, and where and lifesaving is more important than privacy which is not compromised in the many other nations with these kinds of modern systems.
The nations that have such systems enjoy them because they have leaders who truly put their public responsibilities before their personal careers rather than blaming their shortcomings on the other party whose leaders they demonize.
As I’ve noted before, that’s why we pay too much for drugs, among other things.
And spend so much time shuffling paper.
I keep seeing folks questioning the number of deaths from COVID-19, insinuating that the figures are being fudged.
Fact: Every time someone is born or dies in this nation, a birth or death certificate is issued, like the one I received when my wife Billye passed in January.
These documents are official and must be sent to Social Security and insurers. Anyone trying to fake them can end up in jail.
These phony claims originate from people from our president on down who cannot seem to understand that COVID-19 is a medical and scientific situation rather than a political issue and that their false claims are unnecessarily costing human lives.