On the buses for a trip down Memory Lane

THERE was a time when nearly everyone in Dewsbury travelled on public transport because few people owned cars and there were only a handful of taxis about.

Friday, 6th May 2011, 1:12 pm

Rich and poor rubbed shoulders on the once familiar maroon and gold buses operated by the Yorkshire Woollen District Transport Company from its depot in Savile Town.

Dewsbury bus station was a busy place, with buses coming and going from early morning till late, and always well-filled.

On many routes it was ‘standing room only’, something which wouldn’t be allowed today for health and safety reasons.

In the old days they allowed eight passengers to stand, and you didn’t mind being squashed together as long as you could get on the bus..

There were bus conductors as well as drivers in those days and there were so many bus station staff they had their own canteen.

They all seemed to love their job, and I always thought there couldn’t be a better or less stressful job than being a bus conductor.

How lucky they were, I used to think, being able to travel all day on a bus without having to pay their fare.

The bus station was a friendly place where you arranged to meet boyfriends and girlfriends, and if you missed your bus there was always the Bon Bon Cafe you could retreat to for a frothy cup of coffee.

Life seemed more leisurely and passengers used to chat to each other instead of just staring into space as they seem to do today.

And children always stood up to let older people sit down, and if they didn’t, they were made to do so by the conductor or other passengers.

The paintwork of the buses was a classy maroon trimmed with gold, which in 1973 was changed to poppy red, a great mistake I always thought.

The old bus station, which was situated in Asman Square (now the Asman Centre) was built in 1932 and demolished in 1980.

The year before a new bus station, the present one, was opened just across the road, and although it is still busy and well-used, it is almost deserted at night.

Probably because people don’t go out so much in the evenings as they once did because they now have the telly to entertain them.

But there isn’t much going on in Dewsbury at night these days, no cinemas and few pubs, unlike the old days.

Public transport was at its peak when the old bus station was built in

1932 at a time when trams were being phased out.

To cope with increasing public demand, Yorkshire Woollen purchased 48 new vehicles, 23 of which were Leyland 48-seater double-deckers with the entrance located centrally.

These vehicles had been ordered specifically to replace trams which finally ceased operation in 1934.

In 1933, the bus fleet totalled 224, operating over an incredible nine million miles and carrying nearly 40 million passengers a year.

RECENTLY I showed a photograph of staff of Yorkshire Transformer Company, Thornhill Lees, on a trip to Morecambe, and mentioned they’d travelled in a Stanley Gath coach.

I have since learned it was a Yorkshire Woollen coach and the name of the driver pictured was Bill Stephenson, one of the top drivers of the day.

Bill’s son, Roger, wrote to tell me his father had driven for Yorkshire Woollen for many years, and points out that the white coat his father was wearing on the picture, sported a red collar with the initials YWD embroidered on it.

Rugby League fans might be interested to know that Bill was father to Roger’s younger brother, Nigel Stephenson, former Dewsbury and Bradford rugby league star.